Capitalists, Cronies And Crooked Deals: Iowa’s Carbon Pipeline Scam

Carbon capture investors are trying to buy up Iowa’s politicians, our land and our futures. We have to stop them.

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Climate and Energy

by Emma Schmit and Phoebe Galt

Three corporations have proposed nearly 2,000 miles of hazardous carbon pipelines across Iowa. Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 Ventures and Archer-Daniels Midland/Wolf Carbon Solutions hope to cash in on carbon capture. And they’ll use public money to do it — at the expense of Iowans, our land and our futures.

In order to build the pipelines, the three corporations will claim eminent domain. This will allow them to seize private lands for “public use”; in this case, for the pipelines. We won’t let this happen — 80% of Iowans oppose the use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines. But Iowa’s 2022 legislative session has been a glaring disappointment. Across every corner of the state, constituent concerns have been ignored in favor of corporate interests. Despite overwhelming public pressure, the legislature failed to address carbon pipelines this session. The biggest reason? Money.

Federal Taxpayer Dollars are Funding the Carbon Pipeline Boom

The catalyst behind the recent surge in CCS development is government funding. Our tax dollars have become a cash cow for Wall Street, guaranteeing investors massive profits. FWW analysis found that more than 20 billion of our tax dollars could finance Iowa’s three proposed carbon pipelines. A single federal tax credit, Section 45Q, could funnel almost $2 billion a year to Summit, Navigator and ADM/Wolf. Over the 12 years that the projects are eligible for the Section 45Q credit, the companies would make $23 billion.

And the federal money doesn’t stop there. The 2021 infrastructure bill included billions of public dollars for a massive CCS infrastructure buildout. This adds to the nearly $10 billion already invested in demo-projects and research over the past decade. Our government directed over $12 billion last year alone to prove something we already know. CCS does not work.

Archer Daniels-Midland already knows this. In 2017, the company began capturing carbon from its Illinois ethanol plant. The facility consistently captures just half of its yearly CO2 target. Biofuels still emit CO2 when combusted, and the captured CO2 accounts for only 3% of ADM’s total CO2 emissions. This same story has played out everywhere CCS has been tried at scale. But now, thanks to our tax dollars, Summit, Navigator and ADM/Wolf are guaranteed to profit from these ventures. 

Risk for Iowans, Reward for Private Interests

Carbon pipelines will take private land from Iowans, while posing serious safety risks. For example, if a pipeline ruptures, odorless, colorless CO2 could spread in lethal amounts up to four and a half miles away. CO2 exposure can cause respiratory arrest, cardiac arrhythmia, long-term brain damage and other fatal conditions. 

But none of Summit, Navigator and ADM/Wolf’s private investors will face these risks. Instead, they’ll be sitting back, feet up, watching their profits skyrocket. 

Pursuing Profits, Shady Private Sector Investors are Hopping on the CSS Bandwagon

Summit, Navigator and ADM/Wolf have a roster of investors pockmarked with problematic corporations. These investors include John Deere, Continental Resources and Valero. They’ll also rake in a neat sum from the carbon pipelines proposed for Iowa.

Last year, more than 10,000 unionized workers at John Deere went on strike. They know John Deer cannot be trusted — this company does not work for the little guy. Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies Continental Resources and Valero are fracking and drilling our planet past a livable tipping point. These shady bedfellows behind the Iowa CCS projects speak volumes. They’re focused on profits, not public good, and they should not be trusted with our land, lives and futures.

Private Money is Rigging Our Politics

In early 2022, the Iowa legislature scrambled to address constituents’ overwhelming opposition to the pipelines. Numerous bills were introduced in both chambers. These bills responded directly to constituent demands and effectively proposed a halt to the projects. 

An amendment for an 11-month moratorium on eminent domain claims for the pipelines even passed the House. But in the end, these efforts failed. Thanks to the sway of private money, no legislation to stop carbon pipelines passed this session.

Meanwhile, nearly every top Republican politician in Iowa has cashed hefty checks from Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit Carbon Solutions. The same can be said for executives at Navigator CO2 Ventures. They donated thousands to House Majority Leader Pat Grassley, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and Governor Kim Reynolds right before the 2022 legislative session.

Now, the pipeline corporations have to seek permits for the CCS scheme. In Iowa, that means approval from the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), a three-person board appointed by the Governor. That process, too, is wrought with private monied interests. Governor Reynolds accepted $163,902 in campaign contributions from Summit’s Rastetter. 

Iowans Won’t Be Sold Out

The people we elected to serve us are selling us out. But it’s not too late to stop them. Ultimately, Iowans across the state are deeply opposed to the carbon capture scams and we will not back down.

The campaign to stop carbon pipelines from crisscrossing Iowa is far from over. The permit approval process will stretch into 2023 and 2024. We will continue fighting for the land, communities and future of Iowa every step of the way.

Demand that the Iowa Utilities Board deny all permits for the proposed carbon pipelines.