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Seth Boyes

Ready Seth Go

Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.

Opinion

County has little say with CO2 pipelines, public should speak up

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Dickinson County now has two informational meetings under its belt when it comes to carbon pipelines. I'd imagine many of us didn't know underground carbon sequestration even existed before this year — and I'd put myself in that category. So it's a bit daunting in some respects to think our little patch of northwest Iowa might be home to two such pipelines in a matter of years.

Now, as I did after the folks with Summit Ag Solutions proposed their pipeline, I'll admit I'm not the person you want forming an opinion about how such a thing will effect a given acre of farmland. I've seen much fieldwork in my years, but I've done little, so I mostly listen when it comes to the subject.

There was plenty of listening to be done during Thursday's presentation from Navigator CO2 Ventures about their planned pipeline. Again, you can form your own opinions, but there was one statement from the meeting on which I feel I can speak with solid confidence.

A gentleman in the audience that afternoon said the public needs to tell the county supervisors and state officials not to give corporations the power to use eminent domain to complete the pipeline.

I understand what he was trying to point out, but we're just a hair from the bullseye.

You see, the county supervisors don't have any say in this thing — not really.

I've got a number of comments scribbled in my notebook during past supervisors meetings, and they all basically say the same thing — 'We're frustrated.'

The county doesn't actually give its approval for a pipeline like this. The Iowa Utilities Board does at the state level, but there's no local-level approval (so, the supervisors' frustration is particularly understandable). All the county can do — and is required to do by law for that matter — is hire an engineering firm to keep an eye on how the pipeline company is digging up the land to bury the pipeline and how they're putting it back.

I know it's more complicated than that, and I know in reality the engineers are going to be examining things I don't even know need examining, but I'm trying to keep things simple here.

And that's what we're used to most of the time in our corner of the state — keeping things simple.

We're used to speaking plainly when we have a problem, and we're used to getting a simple response one way or the other. In fact, I'd venture to say that many of the farmers in our county are used to taking their issues to the county board of supervisors when something comes up and trusting that it'll get fixed.

I mean, there's a line on the agenda almost every week for…hold on a second, let me pull it up to get it exactly right… "approval of drainage claim(s) presented to the board." And the board pretty much always pass with zero discussion.

They even typically let the supervisor in whose district the claim originated make the official motion to approve it. And that's just one of the things the county government does on behalf of the people.

But this time the paradigm may be reversed.

Like I said, the supervisors have no authority when it comes to permitting either of the pipelines, rather it's the Iowa Utilities Board. But here's the other point to realize — the IUB doesn't function the same as a county supervisors meeting.

When folks want the county to consider something, it's not uncommon for them to just walk into the courthouse on a Tuesday morning and say their piece. I've seen it more than once — some are more pleasant than others, but it's pretty common. So, while we might be tempted to do the same when someone from the state is holding an informational meeting, that isn't going to cut the mustard.

Unfortunately, none — let me repeat, none — of what anybody said on Thursday is going in the official record for the IUB to consider when the time comes. As with the first pipeline presentation back in September, Thursday's meeting was to give us information — not the other way around.

So, if you've really got strong feelings about these pipelines — and again, I'm not saying you should feel one way or the other — speaking into the mic last week didn't get you heard.

Now, I know the board of supervisors (and their counterparts in other counties I'm told) are looking into what little they can do as it pertains to the pipelines. But we can do something right now. If you want your thoughts on the project to be considered by the state — if you want to have a say the county frankly doesn't right now— you'll need to file an official comment or question with the Iowa Utilities Board.

You can do it online at iub.iowa.gov/online-services/open-docket-comment-form.

You can also send a letter to:

Iowa Utilities Board

1375 E. Court Avenue

Des Moines, IA 50319

Either way, you'll need to list the docket number for the project on which you're commenting — the Navigator pipeline is docket HLP-2021-0003 (if you're still wanting to put in your two cents about the Summit pipeline, that's docket HLP-2021-0001). And if you're not that tech savvy but still want to save a stamp, I'm told you can call the IUB at 515-725-7337, and their tech folks will help you through the process.

Now, all of this is important because, like one of the officials told everybody Thursday, the IUB is only going to look at what the parties in the case have given to them. In short folks, if we don't give them anything to consider, that's on us. We need to make ourselves clear one way or the other.

Our state wants to hear from the residents of Iowa themselves — not just the few elected to represent them, but directly from those who care. So, while some of us may potentially be on opposite sides of the fence here, I say we show the state how much we truly do care about this issue and respond in spades.