‘Shame on them!’: landowner pushes back at Branstad’s letter supporting carbon pipeline through Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa landowners and the state’s chapter of the Sierra Club are pushing back at a letter former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed on behalf of a company trying to put a carbon sequestration pipeline through 30 counties.

Summit Carbon Solutions, an Ames-based company, wants to build a 700-mile pipeline to carry carbon dioxide that is produced when plants make ethanol. The pipeline would connect to pipelines in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Missouri and eventually transport the carbon dioxide to an underground storage area in North Dakota.

It is one of two proposed pipelines that would go through Iowa.

Carbon dioxide’s increased presence in the atmosphere can add to harm to the climate, according to researchers.

“As a landowner and potential partner of the Summit Carbon Solutions project, you are now a target of the Sierra Club,” Branstad’s letter warned. “Please don’t be intimidated. They are not your friends and will be long gone after they have destroyed the ethanol industry and the value of your corn-producing land.”

In an interview that aired Sunday on WHO 13, Branstad explained why he contends the carbon pipeline is key to the future of the state’s ethanol industry’s success, along with helping to limit the industry’s harm on the environment.

Jess Mazour, Conservation Coordinator for the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, reacted to Branstad’s claims. She sent this to WHO 13:

“The Sierra Club has a long history of protecting landowners from the destruction caused by pipelines.  One only has to fly over the path of the Dakota Access pipeline to realize that years after the pipeline was constructed, the farms still have not returned to their full productive use.  Five years later, you can still trace the pipeline route.  Since the land was not restored to its full productive value, that will reduce the land values.  It is the action of the construction which reduces farm values – mixing of soil horizons, compaction, changing and interfering with the normal flow of groundwater.

Summit Carbon is trying to keep landowners from working together, organizing, and exchanging ideas.  In fact, Summit has now gone to court to keep the landowners’ names from being shared.  All the while Summit has now sent a mailing to all landowners in their project path telling them that Sierra Club would be lying to them and intimidating them.  This is what psychologists call projection – taking your own bad actions and attributing them to someone else.

In fact, landowners have filed numerous complaints with the Utilities Board about the deplorable behavior exhibited by Summit’s land agents, including bullying and intimidation.  

Although Branstad claims that the landowners will be partners with Summit, the reality is that no royalty payments will be given to the landowners for each ton of carbon flowing through the pipeline.  They will not be sharing in the profits of Summit, as one would expect, even though their land is absolutely essential for the carbon pipeline project.  For that, the landowners are expected to give an easement, and will be dictated to concerning how they can use their own land in the easement. Summit needs our land and our money to make their private profits.

Sierra Club stands firm in its stance against the carbon pipelines and encourages all landowners not to sign easements.

Jess Mazour, Conservation Coordinator for the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club

The response included messages from landowners whose property could be impacted by the pipeline.

Lori O’Brien, Plymouth County landowner: “I don’t appreciate Summit and Branstad trying to control the narrative the way they are doing.  I also don’t appreciate the marketing mail I have received from Summit when they refuse to make the landowner lists public. At the present time, we have no way to organize on our own, and Summit is trying to use that to their advantage.  Shame on them!”

Mike Ossian, Clinton County landowner: “The difference is the for profit company Branstad represents is saying, “shut up, trust us, sign away your rights to your own land.” The non-profit is saying “landowners you have a choice. And by banding together you also have a voice.” It’s about money for Branstad’s employers; it is not about the good of the farmer. The only people coming out in support of the pipeline are those that stand to profit off it. It is not green or the environmentalists wouldn’t be opposed to it and it’s not for the farmers or they wouldn’t be opposed to it. Branstad is no longer an elected official but a paid spokesman. He went from representing Iowans to representing his employer”.

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