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Klopfenstein – Spring 2022 – MJEAL

Eminent Area and Ethanol: Farmland Seizures and Carbon Sequestration in Iowa

Ian Klopfenstein

In line with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), carbon sequestration is the method of capturing and storing atmospheric CO2.[i] This course of happens by pure processes like photosynthesis and biomass carbon banking, in addition to by human-facilitated carbon seize and storage (CCS) operations.[ii] Synthetic CCS operations are normally designed round massive level air pollution sources to seize CO2 produced by industrial processes earlier than it enters the environment.[iii] The CO2 is then transported by pipeline from the purpose supply to its sequestration level, sometimes being injected into underground geological formations like oil fields and exhausted coal beds.[iv] Whereas the USGS estimates North America has sufficient storage capability for 900 years’ value of CO2 at present sequestration charges,[v] the long-term safety of those deposits have been referred to as into query following situations of CO2 leakage and geological instability at injection websites across the nation.[vi]

On February 1, 2022, Summit Carbon Options filed its first allow utility with the Iowa Utilities Board for its Midwest Carbon Specific pipeline, the most important carbon seize mission on the planet.[vii] The pipeline is slated to unfold throughout a route of two,000 miles, originating in Iowa and transporting round 12 million tons of CO2 yearly to an underground deposition website northwest of Bismarck, North Dakota within the Bakken shale formation.[viii] Whereas Minnesota, Nebraska, and each Dakotas are set to be coated by the Midwest Carbon Specific by its 2024 completion, allow filings have solely commenced in Iowa so far.[ix]

This mission has not been with out controversy. It faces opposition from environmental and landowner teams in Iowa. On the coronary heart of the landowners’ considerations is the precedent set by the Iowa Supreme Court docket following litigation over farmland condemnations to construct the Dakota Entry Pipeline. Within the 2019 case of Puntenney v. Iowa Utilities Board, the Iowa Supreme Court docket expanded upon its earlier coverage of upholding seizures of personal property below eminent area for “public use” tasks.[x] Beforehand, “public use” tasks had been restricted to infrastructure tasks.[xi] Nevertheless, the Iowa Supreme Court docket decided that Dakota Entry was thought of a “widespread provider,” which below Iowa regulation now renders pipeline improvement “as a legitimate public use, even when the operator is a personal entity, and the first profit is a discount in operational prices.”[xii] Following this line of reasoning, the Iowa Supreme Court docket declined to concentrate on advantages instantly conferred upon Iowans and as a substitute justified their ruling by specializing in the overall advantage of “low[er] costs for petroleum merchandise.”[xiii]

The Midwest Carbon Specific is deliberate to cross 30 completely different counties in Iowa, and Summit Carbon Options has held public enter conferences in every county in Fall 2021.[xiv] Many farmers objected to having the pipeline cross their land, citing considerations starting from the danger of liquid CO2 leakage to the disruption of soil horizons and uprooting of tiling programs put in to enhance subject drainage.[xv] Affected landowners additionally took subject with the dearth of any profit-sharing mechanism to repeatedly compensate farmers dealing with everlasting harm to their farmland.[xvi] Highlighting the monetary detriment to farmers, an Iowa State College examine discovered a 23% discount in corn yield and 35.5% decline in soybean yield for right-of-way areas disrupted by pipeline development.[xvii] This one-two punch of great crop losses and the dearth of localized monetary advantages has led many farmer and landowner teams to take important stands towards the mission.[xviii]

Becoming a member of these native stakeholders in opposing the Midwest Carbon Specific are environmentalists, each regionally and nationally.[xix] The pipeline is about to attach 12 ethanol crops in Iowa to the bigger sequestration community that features 31 ethanol crops throughout the higher Midwest.[xx] Bruce Rastetter, the CEO of Summit Agricultural Group, has characterised this mission as a “inexperienced vitality answer,”[xxi] an assertion instantly refuted by environmental teams. As an alternative, this carbon sequestration mission is sort of solely devoted to benefitting the ethanol trade. The ethanol trade, which creates flamable gasoline from extra corn yields, requires heavy water utilization, intensive row-cropping and monocultures, and heavy fertilizer and pesticide use to extend yields.[xxii] As an alternative of supporting a pivot in direction of a extra sustainable and environmentally acutely aware agricultural financial system, this mission will subsidize the present fossil-fuel intensive, industrialized scheme that has come to dominate our nation’s heartland.

 Environmental teams additionally take subject with the mission’s “greenwashing,” diverting funding and labor away from legit carbon options.[xxiii] Iowa is the nation’s chief in per-capita wind vitality technology with established land utilization agreements and protocols to facilitate farmland leases between landowners and personal vitality corporations.[xxiv] The mission is slated to price round $4.5 billion,[xxv] a direct funding in carbon-intensive gasoline markets regardless of main home shifts in direction of electrification. Although this mission is touted as a “carbon answer,” it doesn’t handle another kind of fossil gasoline emissions apart from these instantly generated by ethanol manufacturing. It enhances private and non-private funding in fossil gasoline infrastructure and does nothing to stimulate a market shift in direction of carbon-neutral vitality sources. Moreover, liquid CO2 pipelines are liable to leakage.[xxvi] An invisible asphyxiant, a liquid CO2 pipeline leak in Mississippi despatched 49 individuals to the hospital and poses and deadly menace to public well being.[xxvii] Additional environmental considerations come up surrounding the proposed carbon deposition website within the Bakken shale oil formation.[xxviii] This area of North Dakota has skilled elevated seismic exercise following the meteoric rise of the hydraulic fracturing trade,[xxix] making a danger of breaching the underground CO2 reservoirs billed because the “carbon answer” within the first place.

Summit Carbon Answer has additional been referred to as into query for his or her shut relationship with the Republican Social gathering. Bruce Rastetter, the corporate’s founder and CEO, was beforehand appointed as president of the Iowa Board of Regents by Republican governor and former U.S. ambassador to China Terry Branstad, who serves as an adviser to the corporate.[xxx] Two of the three sitting members of the Iowa Utilities Board, the regulatory company accountable for regulating utility tasks within the state, had been appointed by Branstad.[xxxi] Rastetter is a big monetary backer of the Iowa GOP and has employed Jake Ketzner, former chief of employees to Republican governor Kim Reynolds and longtime aide to Branstad, because the vice chairman of presidency and public affairs.[xxxii] One other govt Vice President of the agency is an vitality govt who was illegally appointed to the North Dakota Legislature by Republican Governor Doug Burgum.[xxxiii] These relationships will likely be essential to look at because the mission strikes ahead, given Summit Carbon Answer’s shut relationship with state executives and regulatory businesses. Battle of curiosity points can also come up when figuring out eminent area seizures and allocation of state and federal funds.            

Given the Iowa Supreme Court docket’s deference in direction of pipeline tasks and the dearth of help amongst affected landowners, the easement licensing course of will likely be one to observe. The Midwest Carbon Specific would successfully subsidize the ethanol trade whereas impeding on the yields and rising situations of the farmers it’s purported to assist. Because the transportation sector strikes in direction of electrification, is now the time to spend money on a multi-billion-dollar carbon sequestration pipeline benefitting biofuels? Who is about to profit in the long term, if not the landowners themselves? The results of the easement course of for the Iowa department of this pipeline will doubtless foreshadow the eventual repetition of this course of in different states alongside the pipeline’s root. Carbon sequestration is a crucial aspect of local weather coverage; nevertheless, this expensive and imperious mission is extra tailor-made in direction of benefitting particular industrial pursuits as a substitute of supporting sustainable agricultural practices and offering market stability to particular person commodity producers.

Ian Klopfenstein is a Junior Editor with MJEAL. Ian might be reached at

[i] What’s carbon sequestration?, USGS (Jul. 7, 2017),

[ii] What’s the distinction between geologic and biologic carbon sequestration?, USGS (Jul. 7, 2017),

[iii] The Idea of Geologic Carbon Sequestration, USGS (Dec. 31, 2011)

[iv] Id.

[v] How a lot carbon dioxide can america retailer underground through geologic sequestration?, USGS (2013),

[vi] T.A. Hill, et al., Understanding the Penalties of CO2 Leakage Downstream of the Seize Plant, Vitality Procedia, Quantity 4, pg. 2230-2237 (2011),; Mark D. Zoback and Steven M. Gorelick, Earthquake triggering and large-scale geologic storage of carbon dioxide, Stanford College (Might 4, 2012),

[vii]  Jeff Seaside, World’s largest carbon seize pipeline goals to attach 31 ethanol crops, minimize throughout Higher Midwest, AgWeek (Dec. 6, 2021, 4:31 AM),

[viii] Zachary Dupont, What to know in regards to the two proposed CO2 seize pipelines coming to North Iowa, Globe Gazette (Dec. 10, 2021)  

[ix] Leah Douglas, U.S. Midwest carbon pipeline has secured lower than 2% of key Iowa route, filings present, Reuters (Mar. 8, 2022, 6:19 AM),

[x] Puntenney v. Iowa Utilities Board, No. 17-0423 (Iowa, 05/31/2019).

[xi] Id.

[xii] Chris Clayton, Getting Entry for Carbon Pipelines, Progressive Farmer (Oct. 20, 2021, 9:49 AM),

[xiii] Iowa’s legal guidelines on easements have to be reviewed and reconsidered, Sierra Membership, Iowa Chapter (Oct. 16, 2021),

[xiv] John Steppe, Public weighing in on Summit’s Iowa carbon seize pipeline mission, Cedar Rapids Gazette (Sep. 22, 2021, 6:00 AM),

[xv] Stephen Joyce, Greatest-ever Carbon Seize Venture Going through Midwest Opposition, Bloomberg Legislation (Nov. 22, 2021, 5:30 AM),

[xvi] Elijah Helton, Cash talks for Midwest Carbon Specific, N’West Iowa REVIEW (Nov. 26, 2021),

[xvii] Danielle Gehr, ‘It’s gonna screw up every thing’: Boone County farmers decry proposed carbon seize pipeline, Ames Tribune (Oct. 5, 2021, 6:03 AM),

[xviii] Cory Allen Heidelberger, Landowners Close to Madison Leary of Carbon-Seize Pipeline; Second CO2 Pipeline Might Attain Japanese Fringe of SD, Dakota Free Press (Nov. 1, 2021),

[xix] Emma Schmit, Iowans don’t need carbon pipelines – right here’s why, Bleeding Heartland (Jan. 10, 2022),

[xx] Supra notice vii.

[xxi] Venture Advantages, Summit Carbon Options,

[xxii] Virginia Gewin, How Corn Ethanol for Biofeul Fed Local weather Change, Civil Eats (Feb. 14, 2022),

[xxiii] Ron Rossman, Opinion: CO2 pipelines aren’t the reply to local weather change, Des Moines Register (Oct. 10, 2021, 4:40 AM),

[xxiv] Leah Douglas, Big pipeline in U.S. Midwest take a look at way forward for carbon seize, Reuters (Nov. 23, 2021, 6:52 PM),

[xxv] Supra notice xviii.

[xxvi] Curtis M. Oldenburg, Well being, security, and environmental dangers from vitality manufacturing: A year-long actuality test, Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Laboratory (2011),

[xxvii] Erin Jordan, Witnesses describe Mississippi CO2 pipeline explosion, Cedar Rapids Gazette (Feb. 1, 2022, 6:00 AM),

[xxviii] Adam Willis, Large Midwest pipeline, a take a look at for North Dakota’s carbon seize objectives, hits landowner snags, The Dickinson Press (Dec. 5, 2021, 12:30 PM),

[xxix] Id.

[xxx] Jason Clayworth, Battle of curiosity? Critics query $4.5B Iowa pipeline proposal, Axios (Sep. 21, 2021),

[xxxi] Board Members, Iowa Utilities Board,

[xxxii] Randy Paulson, O’Brien County questions Summit spokesman, N’West Iowa REVIEW (Jan. 15, 2022),

[xxxiii] Doug Culver, North Dakota Supreme Court docket guidelines towards Gov. Doug Burgum in struggle to fill useless candidate’s state Home seat, USA As we speak (Nov. 24, 2020, 10:08 PM),



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