Supervisors give comments regarding pipeline ordinance injunction
by Renée Brich, Managing Editor
SHELBY COUNTY — Shelby County landowners and residents packed the Shelby County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, July 18 to hear the Supervisors’ comments about the federal court’s temporary injunction regarding Shelby County’s ordinance restricting carbon dioxide pipelines.
“Last Monday, July 11, a Federal District Court Judge granted Summit Carbon Solutions’ request for a temporary, preliminary injunction. The ruling means that the county may not enforce our hazardous pipeline ordinance at this time,” Board of Supervisor Chairman Steve Kenkel said. “We continue to evaluate our options, but a trial in the case is currently scheduled for January 2024.”
Kenkel reiterated the stance that the Board is not trying to zone the pipeline companies out of the county, but are trying to make safety a priority for Shelby Countians.
“We have a duty as Supervisors to protect our County,” Kenkel said. “Iowa Code empowers Supervisors with the authority of county Home Rule and enacting ordinance to protect and preserve the rights, privileges and property of the county or its residents, and preserve and improve the peace, safety, health, welfare, comfort and conveniences of its residents.”
“How do we do this, when other levels of government won’t support counties or land owners’ rights on the C02 pipelines? It seems like we are fighting to protect our rights alone, at the local level.”
Last fall, the Shelby County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance dictating a pipeline must sit 1,000 feet away from any occupied structure, which includes a confinement feeding operation and public wastewater treatment plant, and two miles outside of any city limit.
The ordinance also established emergency response plans and requires any company constructing a hazardous liquid pipeline to submit a list of structures that could be affected by an accidental leak.
The proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline stretches across five states, connecting ethanol plants to transfer captured carbon dioxide emissions to North Dakota for underground storage. The pipeline crosses more than 700 miles in Iowa, and will encroach the city limits of Earling.
Kenkel noted in 1998 the Board approved a Comprehensive Zoning Plan, with a set-back of two miles around all cities within the county.
“Our goals were then, and still, are protecting future economic development growth, especially housing development within the county, along with protecting and growing our tax base.”
He then pointed out what he called a “double standard”, and said “Summit is totally ignoring our county’s plan and land use priorities. Summit is proposing to build their hazardous C02 pipeline within a few hundred feet of the city of Earling, totally ignoring the two-mile setback we’ve had in the plan for 25 years. Summit complains to the legislature about having their permit rules changed ‘midstream’, when they’re working overtime to change the rules for counties.”
It was also noted that Shelby County requires landowners apply for permits to build a home or other structure, yet Summit refuses to file for permits from the county.
“How can a high pressure, C02 hazardous pipeline be built between the two, in a backyard, next to the kids swing set and they are exempt from county permitting requirements? This makes no sense at all.”
Kenkel also pointed out the ordinance contains an Emergency Response Plan and a Hazard Mitigation Plan, which were ruled to be pre-empted by Federal Standards.
“The county’s legal obligation is to engage in emergency response and hazard mitigation planning and with the need to protect the health and welfare of both residents and emergency responders, is our utmost goal. Our plan required a rupture dispersion modeling report, detailing worst-case discharge and blast zone details of a C02 release that may cause a fatality of a person, persons or animals, along with a description of potential adverse health effects that could occur from a C02 pipeline rupture.”
“The last thing we want is
Earling to be a second Satartia, Mississippi,” Kenkel said, referring to the location of a 2020 carbon capture pipeline which ruptured, causing a city-wide evacuation and the hospitalization of 45 of the town’s residents.
Kenkel said he was “extremely disappointed” by the injunction ruling.
“Even though we will wait to see what happens in the next 30 days, we will continue to pursue our commitment to the residents of Shelby County.”
Brittany Rockwell, Regional Director for Senator Joni Ernst and Abby Vander Werf, Regional Director for U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra stated they would pass the concerns along to their bosses to make them aware.
“We’re not here to stop the pipeline,” Kenkel said. “We just want them to do it the right way. We just want to protect what we have here.”
The Board then asked for public comments, and Janice Gaul, Mayor of Earling said the city passed a resolution in support of the county zoning ordinance. “On behalf of our citizens, we want to continue economic development.”
Gaul said since the pipeline would be on the same side of town as the park and baseball field, safety is a concern, because the town has a small volunteer fire department. “They couldn’t handle a crisis” of a pipeline rupture or leak, Gaul said. “How would our children be affected?”
Shelby County landowner Sherri Webb, whose farm has been in her family for 123 years said, “We don’t want a pipeline going through it. That is our choice. To force us and demand on us what we do not want is not fair.”
Webb questioned what the land will look like once the pipeline goes through, and she stated she believes the legislators in support of the pipeline are“sadly mistaken”.
“It’s another thing to add to the Summit list. Transparent? No. Honest? No. Trust them? Absolutely not.”
Kenkel said County Attorney Marcus Gross and Attorney Tim Whipple, who assisted the Supervisors with drafting the ordinance, are currently reviewing the county’s “next step”.
Editor’s note: In the July 18 edition of the Harlan Tribune, the headline read the Shelby County ordinance was struck down by a federal judge. To clarify, the judge issued a temporary injunction earlier this month, meaning the ordinance may not be enforced until a final decision is made. A trial for the case is currently scheduled for January 2024.