Supervisors table proposed carbon pipeline ordinance
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors will not proceed with a carbon pipeline ordinance.
The move was made after closed session discussion with County Attorney Drew Swanson and Assistant County Attorney Bruce Swanson
Prior to the closed session discussion, the supervisors heard once more from Red Oak resident Jan Norris, who expressed her appreciation that the ordinance was once again on the agenda for the supervisors to discuss.
“I trust you will be heartfelt and your discussion will be vigorous so a path forward can be devised. The best way to understanding is asking many questions. I hope your inquiry is robust and multiple ideas can be explored,” stated Norris.
Norris added she was hopeful there was a way forward to establishing a local ordinance to protect her neighbors now if Summit Carbon Solutions was issued a permit by the Iowa Utilities Board, as well as residents in the neighborhoods of the supervisors. Norris stressed the transparency of the information she and other concerned residents have shared.
“All of us always strived to be factual with Montgomery County and provide you with accurate information to better inform you. I hope if nothing else, you understand how important this is by my tenacity,” Norris commented.
Following the closed session meeting which lasted around one hour, Drew Swanson spoke before the supervisors and attendees and shared his findings from a July 10 injunction by federal Judge Stephanie Rose, in regards to an ordinance passed in Shelby County.
As reported last week in a story by Renée Brich with Harlan Newspapers, Rose’s ruling found the Shelby County Board of Supervisors ordinance restricting the proposed carbon dioxide pipeline conflicted with state and federal regulations and should not be enforced. The ruling opined state law does not explicitly prohibit the Shelby County ordinance in Western Iowa but that such a prohibition is implied.
Swanson said he conducted a very thorough and unbiased legal analysis of the injunction and made a recommendation.
“With the ruling being in favor of Summit Carbon, it is our discussion that this ordinance be tabled pending further direction from state or federal authorities. The bottom line is that the order states very clearly and in extreme detail each instance of why each part of the Shelby County ordinance is pre-empted by state or federal law,” advised Swanson.
Swanson felt Montgomery County’s ordinance would be easily challenged due to Shelby County’s ordinance being used as a template.
“Our ordinance is virtually identical, and therefore we would wind up in the same situation that Shelby County is facing right now,” Swanson said.
Supervisors Chair Mike Olson also shared his takeaways after a review of Rose’s ruling.
“On page 36 of the ruling, there are two sentences that kind of sum this up. It says, upon balancing these interests, this element supports Summit. Defendants may not pass unenforceable ordinances in a roundabout attempt to undermine valid federal and state law,” commented Olson.
Supervisor Donna Robinson motioned to table the ordinance based on the interpretation of the county’s legal counsel.
“Our council broke the ruling down for us in a plain and simple way. This is a document that is public information. It’s 37 pages, it’s been released, and it’s available to all individuals that want to read it and interpret it. I think if we moved forward on this, it would be purposeful ignorance on our part, and I don’t think that’s the intention of this board. It’s certainly not mine,” Robinson explained.
Olson said the ordinance was not being thrown out completely, but it all depended on action at the state or federal level.
“The IUB can’t do it, but the state legislature or federal government could change how this ruling is. However, based on what we’ve gone through today, we have no home rule when it comes to interstate pipelines at this time. That may change. So we’re not killing the ordinance, we’re just not going to continue with it at this time,” Olson said.
The supervisors unanimously approved Robinson’s motion to table the county’s carbon pipeline ordinance.