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Floyd County goes on record with concerns over CO2 pipeline projects

By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

Floyd County supervisors this week approved letters to be sent to the two companies proposing to build carbon dioxide pipelines through the county, expressing concerns regarding potential damage, safety, use of eminent domain and – through an audience-provided amendment – economic development.

The board has been considering such a letter and working on the wording with the Floyd County Attorney’s Office for many months, since the Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures projects were announced last year and opposition to the projects began to be heard.

One person at the meeting wondered why it had taken Floyd County so long to go on the record, and why the supervisors weren’t taking a harder stand.

George Cummins, a retired ISU Extension crop specialist who owns farmland that would be affected by the pipelines, said, “Forty-two counties have submitted objections, ordinances or petitions, out of 52 or 54 that are affected, and those are a lot stronger than what you’ve got here.”

“Understood,” said Supervisor Linda Tjaden. “And yet on the reverse side I’ve heard from a lot of people who have no problem with any of this, too. So again, we have to represent all of Floyd County.”

She said her goal was to make sure that Floyd County was heard by the Iowa Utilities Board – the body that will ultimately decide whether to allow the pipelines to be built or not. She said was not in favor of passing an ordinance or a resolution against the projects, but wanted the utilities board to know that they had concerns.

Mark Kuhn, a former county supervisor who is running for the District 1 supervisor position in the November election, suggested that the board add wording to the letter to be sent to Summit Carbon Solutions addressing that project’s proposal to cross through prime development property.

“The proposed route of the Summit pipeline runs directly through the Avenue of the Saints Development Park. That would clearly have a negative effect on Floyd County’s ability to attract new industrial growth,” Kuhn said.

He noted that the 75-acre site is state certified and shovel-ready for development, with electrical, water and sewer utilities already in place, and was purchased with property tax dollars at a cost of about $2.1 million.

“Imagine the destruction and damage to that infrastructure if a permanent easement is granted,” he said. “The pipeline would also permanently reduce the number of acres available in the park for development.”

Kuhn suggested adding wording to the Summit letter to referring to the potential harm to economic development, and specifically citing the potential negative impact to the development park.

Tjaden said she agreed with those additions and moved that the board approve sending both letters, with the Summit letter amended as Kuhn proposed. The motion passed 3-0.

The letter to the Iowa Utilities Board regarding the Navigator project states:

“We, the Floyd County Board of Supervisors, are submitting this letter for your consideration pertaining to the Summit Carbon Solutions Midwest Carbon Express Pipeline. (docket citation) This letter is to inform you of our concerns regarding the proposed pipeline. Our concerns include impacts to public drainage infrastructure and private farm tile, public safety and use of eminent domain for the purpose of private benefit.

“The Board and private landowners act as trustees to drainage districts within our county. We have concerns regarding potential damage to drainage district infrastructure as well as drainage tiles.Damage to this infrastructure could result in both public and private cost as a result of this project.

“Safety of our citizens is a primary concern of the elected officials in this county. Although discharged CO2 should settle relatively close to the ground and disperse depending on the strength of the wind, anyone in the immediate vicinity could run the risk of suffocation. Local fire fighters and first responders are not currently trained to respond to such an emergency. Planning for a response to a discharge of concentrated CO2 will require both additional training and expense.

“Finally, we also have concerns about the use of eminent domain for this type of project. We question the appropriateness of eminent domain for the benefit of a private company. This type of project does not appear to have public benefit, such as a utility might.

“The Floyd County Board of Supervisors respectfully requests that the Iowa Utilities Board consider our concerns regarding this matter.”

The letter regarding the Summit project is the same, except the words “economic development” are added to the list of concerns, and this paragraph was added right before the paragraph about concerns over eminent domain:

“The Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would go directly through the Avenue of the Saints Development Park, potentially damaging electrical, water and sewer utilities already in place. The pipeline’s permanent easement would also limit Floyd County’s ability to fully utilize all of the industrial park for needed economic development and future growth.”

Also at the meeting this week, the board received a letter from an attorney representing Valero Renewable Fuels Co., saying that unless the impasse between Floyd Township trustees and the Floyd Community Volunteer Fire Department was settled, he would file a writ of mandamus in Iowa District Court asking a judge to force the trustees or the supervisors to take action to provide fire protection in Floyd Township as required by law.

Andrew Anderson, a partner with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLC of Des Moines, cited Iowa Code that says, “the trustees of each township shall provide fire protection service for the township,” emphasizing the word “shall.”

He wrote that Iowa Code gives the supervisors the power to assume the duties of the township to provide fire protection, and the supervisors have failed to do so.

The issue is a dispute between the township trustees and the volunteer fire department over how much the township should pay for fire protection, with accusations flowing both ways and hard feelings between the opposing parties.

The latest contract for service expired June 30. The others members of the fire service district – the city of Floyd, the west part of Cedar Township and a small part of Ulster Township – have signed new contracts with the volunteer fire department, which is operating as a private corporation.

Anderson wrote, “Without fire protection, everyone in Floyd Township is exposed to significant risk, however, the Ethanol Plant is particularly and uniquely threatened. The Ethanol Plant produces and handles ethanol, a flammable substance. If the Ethanol Plant catches fire, the Ethanol Plant requires a quick response from a fire department trained in fighting industrial ethanol fires.

“Under the previous Floyd Township fire protection contract, FCVFD provided coverage to the Ethanol Plant. FCVFD proximity to the Ethanol Plant meant it could provide the necessary rapid response. Valero paid for some members of the FCVFD to attend a program that trained them in the unique challenges of fighting industrial ethanol fires,” he wrote.

“Under the previous contract, Valero invested and had confidence in FCVFD’s ability to render aid to the Ethanol Plant. Now, the lack of a contract forces Valero to rely on verbal assurances from the Trustees that other area fire departments may respond though not under a contract to do so and though they may not be trained to respond to industrial ethanol fires,” Anderson wrote.

Supervisor Roy Schwickerath said he had read the Iowa Code section, and he couldn’t see at what point the supervisors are supposed to step in.

Tjaden said she had talked with Assistant County Attorney Randy Tilton, who said it should still be up to the township trustees to come to a solution.

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