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Kossuth County approves pipeline ordinance despite litigation threat
Kossuth County approves pipeline ordinance despite litigation threat

Supervisors of Kossuth County have approved new restrictions for carbon dioxide pipelines that would require them to be placed certain distances away from cities, houses, and other facilities.

The board of supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve their third and final consideration of the ordinance despite the imminent threat of litigation from Summit Carbon Solutions, which has sued three counties for imposing similar restrictions.

The company proposes to build a five-state pipeline system to transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to North Dakota for underground storage. About 700 miles of pipe would be laid in Iowa.

Summit has so far been successful in challenging county ordinances that might interfere with its proposed route. A federal judge granted the company permanent injunctions last week that prevent Shelby and Story counties from enforcing their ordinances, which are similar to the one approved this week by Kossuth.

A Summit representative noted those injunctions last week before the Kossuth supervisors took their second of three votes to approve their ordinance.

“The counties are permanently barred from enforcing any aspect of those ordinances,” said Grant Terry, a senior project manager for the company, according to a video recording of the meeting. “Just, again, it shows that that regulating power and the responsibility is at the state and federal level. … If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer.”

The supervisors did not have any questions. Instead, they modified the ordinance to slightly lessen the so-called setback distances and moved it toward passage.

Kyle Stecker, chairperson of the board, said during the meeting that the change was made in light of expert testimony about the pipeline’s safety that was part of a permit process in another state, but he declined to be more specific when pressed by residents.

Many residents who spoke at the supervisors’ meetings favored the ordinance but called for it to be stricter — even to the point it would completely bar the construction of carbon dioxide pipelines within 3,000 feet of the county’s borders.

The supervisors have sought to draft an ordinance that will withstand a legal challenge. They anticipate one from Summit: Last week, they also voted to increase the limit of money they intend to spend for lawyers’ fees associated with the ordinance, from $50,000 to $100,000.

Stecker noted the county had already spent about $45,000, and another supervisor said one of the counties that was sued by Summit has spent about $150,000. The supervisors acknowledged that they might need to increase the limit again.

The supervisors seek to reduce the safety risks from a pipeline breach by keeping the pipelines at least 2-1/2 miles from cities and about a half mile from houses, schools, medical facilities, animal confinements, and certain public areas.

A Summit spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request to comment for this article. The company’s petition for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit is pending with the Iowa Utilities Board.

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