Iowa’s laws on easements need to be reviewed and reconsidered
Once again, there is a battle raging at the Iowa Utilities Board over easements being granted for the private use of a corporation. This time it is over the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline which will take carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants, transport them via a pipeline through 30 Iowa counties, winding up in North Dakota where the carbon dioxide will be buried underground (or perhaps used for enhanced oil recovery in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota). On its heels is a plan by Navigator CO2 Ventures for another carbon dioxide pipeline that will run through Iowa to Illinois.
It is time for a discussion about the role of easements and how easements are paid for.
The landowners who are hosting the pipeline are given a one-time fee for access to their land. The landowners are also eligible for crop losses caused during the construction of the pipeline, and which may be spread over three years at a decreasing rate each year. From experience with the Dakota Access pipeline, the crop damage lasts for more than three years. If the pipeline company has to go onto the landowner’s property to repair the pipeline and damages a crop, they have to pay for the damage. The pipeline company is given access to the property 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The ethanol plants that will connect to the carbon dioxide pipelines are making money selling their ethanol. The ethanol plants and the pipeline also intend to make money from credits issued by the state of California for zero-carbon fuel, which they contend covers ethanol manufactured with carbon capture and storage processes.
The owner of the pipeline will make money transporting the liquefied carbon dioxide to North Dakota. The company that will transfer the carbon dioxide from the pipeline to its intended disposal site underground will make money for their work.
The only entity that is not given a cut of the profits of the carbon sequestration business is the landowner. And the landowner is absolutely essential! Something is very wrong with this. It is time to review, and reconsider, how landowners are paid for the use of the easement.