Norris pleads with supervisors to not allow Summit Carbon Pipeline to ‘bully’ Montgomery County
Summit Carbon Pipeline representatives were on-hand at the regular Montgomery County Board of Supervisors meeting Feb. 21 to share a project update.
The supervisors heard from Riley Gibson with TurnKey Logistics, who represented Summit predominantly on non-environmental permitting, as well as pipeline engineering manager Mike Welch, and Summit director of community relations Sabrina Zenor.
Gibson started out the meeting by sharing the reported numbers of easements secured in the county.
“So far in the county, as of Feb. 15, we are at 68.75% or 12.4 easment miles required in the county, and for the state, we’re at 65.23%, or 447 easement miles acquired in the entire state of Iowa. In Montgomery County, we’ve made $4.1 million in easement payments, again as of Feb. 15,” Gibson stated.
Gibson also told the supervisors Summit had been meeting with secondary roads officials pertaining to depth of coverage for ditches and two culverts the project intersected with. Gibson said the concerns would be annotated in the permit packages for the road crossings, as well as setting rock construction entrances attached to each crossing permit. Gibson said it pertained to temporary driveways attached to the potential road crossings.
“We’re hoping to get our corrections and annotations sent back to the Montgomery County Secondary Roads Department for their review. We’ll do that once we can update the packet. Also, we’re looking for ways to help out in the community. We want to help in any way we can, such as volunteering opportunities,” commented Gibson.
Gibson shared details on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Code of Federal Regulations, or PHMSA 49 CFR 195, which Gibson said were the extensive federal regulations Summit had to follow to the letter.
“It breaks down pipe material we have to use. Ours would be a low-alloy, high-strength carbon steel manufactured in America. We have to do public awareness, such as this presentation, public outreach, or landowner meetings,” Gibson stated. “So far we’ve done more than 1,750 meetings with policy makers, economic development leaders, and Native American organizations. We’ve met with just about everybody you can think of. One of our main goals is to spread as much awareness and answer as many questions as we can. That won’t go away if we put the pipe in the ground.”
Under the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors, or FENSA, Gibson said regulations were that the pipe was 12 inches away from a water line or other utilities the pipeline would cross. Gibson said the best practice was to be 24 inches away, but that it would be negotiated with the utility company. As for tile drainage lines on farmland, the distance would be negotiated on an individual basis.
Gibson said plans also called for aerial photography of the line every two weeks to check the status of the line and look for erosion, easements, or other concerns throughout the entire lifespan of the project. In five-year intervals, per federal regulations, the lines will be inspected for integrity.
Supervisors Donna Robinson asked when the steel requirements for the pipeline had been changed, and what it was initially. Welch advised her he could not tell her a specific date, but said they had been using low-alloy, high-strength carbon steel for as long as he could remember.
Supervisor Charla Schmid asked for clarification on the monitoring system for the pipeline in case of leaks. Gibson said a full-time staff would be in Ames to monitor the line, as well as company representatives living in the community to monitor along the line. Gibson said a data system would be tied in that would detect changes in temperature, pressure, and pinhole leaks. Monitoring would take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Gibson confirmed the pipeline proposed by Summit would connect solely with Poet Biorefining in Shenandoah in Southwest Iowa. The Poet Bioprocessing plant in Corning wasn’t tied in to the Summit pipeline.
Robinson asked what would happen to the pipeline if an alternative method of transport was discovered, and the pipeline was no longer operational. Gibson said clauses would be included in the easements for the removal of the pipeline from the land, or it could be left, and it would just be an empty line if they preferred the land be undisturbed. Also, the line was engineered for carbon only, so it couldn’t be used for other materials.
Welch added that in his experience, it would be determined on a landowner by landowner basis.
“If they want it out of the ground, fine, or the company will sign it over to the landowner and they’re free to do whatever they want with it. The ground would be excavated the same way as it was during construction. The topsoil would be separated from the subsoil and replaced.
County Auditor Jill Ozuna asked about the high pressure of the line. Welch confirmed the carbon was put in at a high pressure to get the density to a liquid form, but said it was well-below the design pressure of the system.
“There’s a lot of room between the operating pressure, and what the physical pipe itself can handle,” advised Welch.
In the event of a rupture, Gibson said Poet would stop pumping CO2 down the line, and blocking valves would be put in place. Coordination had already taken place with first responders and emergency management agencies. While federal regulation called for X-ray inspections of 10% of the welds, Gibson said, if constructed, 100% of the welds would be inspected.
Jan Norris had comments about the pipeline read during the meeting, as she was unable to attend. Norris said the Iowa Utilities Board set public hearings for October 2023 through January 2024. Norris also stated if Summit was lucky enough to receive a permit to build, it would not be until 2024. Norris said there was still strong opposition to the project.
“Landowners, environmentalists, and even legislators are in opposition. Summit is having to hire high-dollar public relations folks, new land agents, lobbyists, and is calling in all the political favors they have. Still, one third of the route cannot be obtained through voluntary easements. Summit will have to beg the IUB to include eminent domain, or they will have no hope,” Norris said.
According to Norris, a rally was held at the Iowa State Capitol on Feb. 21 in opposition to the project. Norris urged the supervisors to do what it could.
“The supervisors can adopt a zoning ordinance requiring setbacks away from homes, schools, hospitals, and communities. Iowa Code says it is your job to protect the rights, privileges and persons, and preserve the peace, safety and health of the residents,” Norris said. “I applaud you for taking the steps to get this far in the process. Please hang in there, and do what the citizens need you to do. Don’t let their big money and big lawyers intimidate you. Don’t let them bully Montgomery County. Hold off on issuing any road permit until Summit actually obtains an IUB permit. I urge you to pass the ordinance and don’t issue right-of-way permits yet.”
Gibson confirmed that if the pipeline project was approved, construction would not begin until 2024. No further action was taken.