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Judge orders Iowa agency to release list of landowners in pipeline path

An Iowa District Court judge ruled Monday that the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) must make the list of landowners likely to be affected by the Summit Carbon Solutions carbon dioxide pipeline available to the public within 14 days. 

Summit compiled the list of more than 10,000 names last year and gave it to the IUB for public meeting notices, asking the board to keep it confidential. The Iowa-based company wants to build a 2,000-mile pipeline to take carbon dioxide off the stacks of ethanol plants and transport it to North Dakota, where it would be stored permanently underground. 

About 60% of affected landowners have refused to grant Summit pipeline easements. In December, the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club filed a request on behalf of some of those landowners to get access to the list via the state’s open records act. 

Summit responded by asking for an injunction to stop the release of the list, arguing that it might dissuade other pipeline projects from sharing such lists in the future. On Monday, Polk County District Judge David Nelmark ruled against Summit, noting in his decision that the purpose of the open records act “is to open the doors of government to public scrutiny—to prevent government from secreting its decision-making activities from the public, on whose behalf it is its duty to act.”

Jess Mazour, conservation program coordinator for the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, said her organization requested the list to help landowners fight back. “Summit vigorously fought to keep the landowner list confidential,” she said, “so the landowners could not form a unified opposition.” Summit representatives could not be reached late Monday.

Nelmark’s decision said that a temporary injunction, issued in February, would be lifted in 14 days unless Summit files for an emergency stay with the Iowa Supreme Court. 

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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