ESTHERVILLE, Iowa (KCAU) — A company trying to install a carbon dioxide pipeline is suing Emmet County and county officials, claiming the county doesn’t have the authority to limit the pipeline from going through the county.

The lawsuit was federally filed on Tuesday, March 28, in the Northern District of Iowa. It lists the defendants as Emmet County, the Emmet County Board of Supervisors, and the supervisors Jeff Quastad, Tim Schumacher, Lisa Hansen, John Pluth, and Todd Glasnapp, in their official capacity. They are being sued by Summit Cabron Solutions, LLC (Summit) and Story County resident William Couser. Couser owns a 5,200-head feed lot and also farms. He sells most of the corn grown on his farm to Lincolnway Energy, an ethanol producer in Nevada, Iowa.

The lawsuit argues the ordinance passed by the Emmet County Board of Supervisors violates the federal Pipeline Safety Act and clashes with state law. On March 7, the Emmet County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that amends the 2013 Emmet County Zoning Ordinance. According to the meeting’s minutes, the new ordinance would amend sections of the original zoning ordinance to include the language “for the purpose of regulating and restricting the use of land for the transport of Hazardous Liquid through a hazardous pipeline.” The board also heard 16 public comments on the ordinance. The board unanimously passed the ordinance on first reading and waived the second and third readings.

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors also discussed “how to handle incoming costs of litigation and how to enforce the Ordinance amending the Zoning Ordinance,” the minutes state.

The lawsuit states that corn is one of Iowa’s top commodities with more than half of the corn harvested going to ethanol production, with the state creating about 27% of national ethanol. Carbon Dioxide is a byproduct of the creation of ethanol. As carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, the process of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has been developed with the purpose of capturing the carbon dioxide, transporting it to another location and then storing it. CCS helps ethanol producers reduce the measure of carbon intensity they produce.

Certain government entities require a lower carbon intensity before a fuel source can be sold in their location. The lawsuit specifically states that Canada regularly imports ethanol and passed a regulation in 2022 requiring that fuel suppliers decrease carbon intensity of gas and diesel used in Canada by 15% by 2030. The lawsuit also states that California and Oregon require the reduction of carbon intensity of fuels sold in the state. Lincolnway Energy currently doesn’t ship ethanol to California due to high carbon intensity. As such, Summit and Couser argue that the value of Iowa ethanol production, and the value of corn in Iowa “depends on, and will likely increasingly depend on, carbon-reduction efforts of Iowa ethanol facilities.”

Summit is planning to build more that 2,000 miles of a pipeline through five states, including more than 600 miles through Iowa, to provide CCS of carbon dioxide for ethanol producers, transporting the gas to North Dakota where it will then be stored. Summit has already started surveying routes and working with landowners to get land access. Some landowners were sued by Summit for being refused to survey the part of their property where the pipeline was proposed to go through.

The lawsuit states that the ordinance injures Summit and Couser by preventing Summit from completing the pipeline in Emmet County. It argues that federal law supersedes the Emmet County ordinance through the Pipeline Safety Act, with the U.S. Department of Transportation responsible for “prescrib[ing] minimum safety standards for pipeline transportation and for pipeline facilities,” to regulate “carbon dioxide transported by a hazardous liquid pipeline facility” and “shall prescribe standards related to hazardous liquid to ensure the safe transportation of carbon dioxide by such a facility.”

In addition, Summit and Couser argue that the Iowa Utilities Board has “broad authority over the
permitting and siting of hazardous liquids pipelines,” and is allowed to grant permits under Iowa Code.

Summit and Couser ask the court to declare the Emmet County ordinance “invalid, unenforceable, and null and void as applied to Summit’s pipeline project” in regards to federal and state law. They also ask that Emmet County be restricted from enforcing or implementing the ordinance. In addition to asking for court fees, the lawsuit also asks for any other relief the court deems appropriate.

KCAU 9 has reached out to the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Chair Todd Glasnapp for a response, but did not hear back at the time of publishing.