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


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.

We Must Hold Iowa Accountable For Failing To Protect Public Water


Clean Water

by Emma Schmit

Iowa is in the midst of a water crisis. People across the state are suffering as another year of drought — intensified by climate change — impacts water usage, crop growth, and the development of toxic blue-green algae blooms in our rivers and lakes. Climate change is worsening the already dangerous conditions from upstream factory farms polluting Iowa’s waterways — it’s more critical than ever for the state to take bold, meaningful action to mitigate the risks facing our water.

Iowa Can’t Fix Its Water Problems By Asking Residents To Reduce Consumption

Reduced water consumption — currently recommended by Des Moines Water Works for the capital region — is a simplistic, short-term answer to a complex, long-term problem. Drought is far from the only challenge facing Iowa’s waters. Nearly 60% of the state’s assessed waters are impaired, attesting to issues far greater than a lack of precipitation affecting our waterways. The Raccoon River, which is used to supply over half a million central Iowans with clean drinking water, was named by American Rivers as one of the nation’s ten Most Endangered Rivers

It’s a direct result of the state’s continued failure to address the grave threats confronting the river — namely pollution from factory farms and industrial agriculture. Rather than protecting the water Iowans rely on for drinking and outdoor recreation, our elected officials have allowed massive agribusinesses to run roughshod over our precious — and finite — water resources. The only thing most of our elected officials have offered is industry-dictated false solutions to improve our water quality — and they aren’t working. Voluntary mechanisms, like the industry-backed Nutrient Reduction Strategy, only benefit corporate agribusiness, and Iowa’s water crisis has only worsened since these voluntary measures have been enacted. 

The industry has exerted its outsized influence over our elected officials for too long. That’s why Food & Water Watch & Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement sued the state of Iowa for failing to protect our right to clean water.

The Iowa Supreme Court Makes A Mind Boggling Decision In Our Case Against Iowa

On June 18, the Iowa Supreme Court released its decision in our case, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch v. State of Iowa. By a slim 4-3 majority, the Court dismissed the case. Former director of the Drake Agriculture Law Center, Neil Hamilton, published a thorough breakdown of the ruling. Like Mr. Hamilton, we found the Court’s decision to dismiss misguided, as it was based on claims that it is not their responsibility to “hold the State accountable to the public.” 

“If it is not the role of the Iowa Supreme Court to hold the State accountable to the public, then who does have that role?”

— Neil Hamilton, Agricultural Law Expert

Great question.

We have 18,400 members in Iowa. We are committed on their behalf to exhausting all options to protect Iowa’s people, communities, and environment. On July 1st, we filed a petition for reconsideration with the Iowa Supreme Court requesting that the four-justice majority re-examine their ruling. While it is uncommon for such petitions to be granted, in a Court decision as divided as this, we believe we have an obligation to our members and the people of Iowa to do everything we can to fight for our right to clean water. 

A Moratorium On New Factory Farms Is The Only Fix For Iowa’s Water Issues 

Through the lawsuit, we hoped to establish a clear, actionable path forward to ensure the water we use for drinking, cooking, swimming, fishing, and recreating is reliable, safe, and clean. A win in the lawsuit would have replaced failed, voluntary half-measures for waterway cleanup with a demand that the state institute mandatory practices to reduce the harmful levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in Iowa’s waterways. To effectively cut back on these polluting nutrients, the state would need to implement a moratorium on new factory farms in the Raccoon River watershed to limit the already exorbitant amount of manure runoff occurring as a result of more than 750 factory farms producing billions of gallons of waste each year. 

We know the future of our state’s water will be bleak if we continue down the current path. We cannot continue to allow the unabated growth of unsustainable, polluting factory farms fed by industrial monoculture crop production if we hope to see thriving communities, economies, and environments in Iowa’s future. We must build a new path that puts the needs of our communities, our drinking water, and our people before the bank accounts of massive agribusinesses. 

It’s time we get real. Iowa’s water crisis isn’t going away. The dismissal of our case is certainly a setback, but we’re going to keep fighting to hold our elected officials accountable to us — their constituents. We will keep up the pressure on the legislature to take real, meaningful steps to protect us. We’ll keep advocating for bold solutions to this crisis. And we’ll keep working to break the stranglehold corporate agriculture has on our political system.

Help us guarantee we all have access to clean water for generations to come. Send a message to Iowa’s leadership!

Iowans Want to Stop Factory Farms. Why Don’t Our Legislators?


Food System

by Emma Schmit

Over the past several years our campaign to stop factory farms has grown from a fledgling idea into a powerful movement. In 2021, legislation calling for a moratorium was introduced in the Iowa General Assembly for the fourth year in a row. What once felt like a long shot to address Iowa’s factory farm crisis has become a policy goal supported by the majority of Iowans. This urgent movement has also had implications far beyond Iowa and played an important role in introducing a national bill to ban factory farms. The progress we’ve made — from influencing the national conversation on factory farming to gaining support among Iowa’s legislators — has far exceeded what we once thought possible.

The movement against factory farming faced real challenges in 2020

Though we’ve come a long way, 2020 was a tough year. Growing a people-powered movement during a global pandemic is a difficult task anywhere, but in Iowa, Governor Reynold’s refusal to enact common-sense protections made it even more difficult. Nearly 350,000 Iowans, including one of our staff and several volunteers, contracted COVID-19. Many more were impacted by the illness or loss of a loved one, financial setbacks, the temporary closure of schools, and the day-to-day challenges of living in isolation. Building a transformative movement in an entirely virtual space presented a lot of obstacles that we had to overcome.

Help us fix our broken farm system by signing to stop factory farms.

And the pandemic wasn’t the only challenge we faced over the past year in Iowa. The derecho — a prolonged wind storm —that ripped through the state in August left more than half a million people without power and caused an estimated $11 billion in damages across the Midwest. Over 8,000 homes were destroyed or extensively damaged, nearly 12 million acres of cropland were destroyed in Iowa alone, and then-President Donald Trump provided only a portion of the requested disaster relief funding. 

As they say, bad things come in threes and in 2020 the third hit for Iowa came on election day when the state voted for Donald Trump with a 53% majority. Across the state, folks had high hopes that the Iowa House would flip to Democratic control in 2020. And by all rights it should have. Instead, we woke up on November 4th to see the Republican party had gained an even greater hold over our state.

Republican leaders in the General Assembly have long refused to consider any legislation that bucks the status quo — hyper-consolidation of Iowa’s agricultural economy — and the 2021 legislative session proved no different. Despite 63% of Iowans supporting a factory farm moratorium, Republican officials refused to assign the moratorium bills to subcommittee for debate. They’re clearly not feeling accountable to their constituents — instead they are carrying water for corporate farming giants like Iowa Select whose owners, Jeff and Deb Hansen, poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into their campaigns. 

The push to enact a factory farm moratorium has stayed strong

Despite these hardships, our members and the movement have persevered. A year like 2020 could have easily destroyed the momentum behind a factory farm moratorium. Instead, as we abruptly halted in-person organizing for COVID-19 safety and navigated one calamity after another, the power behind a moratorium continued to grow. Iowans’ unyielding determination for a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms can’t be derailed by a pandemic, natural disaster, or unfavorable leadership. And it certainly won’t be thwarted by the money or might of Big Ag.

While detractors can point out both moratorium bills dying in committee in an attempt to undermine the movement, we know that isn’t a legitimate metric at this juncture. Not when Iowa is ruled by a destructive, self-serving trifecta. Not when the House Speaker refused to even discuss the legislation because he profits from our dysfunctional system of agriculture. In spite of these obstacles the moratorium campaign still encountered unprecedented success. We recruited a record number of co-sponsors, received a record amount of media attention, and engaged record numbers of people in pressuring their legislators to support a moratorium on factory farms. That’s a better metric to measure this movement by than the actions of a couple industry-backed elected officials blocking the bills.

The ripple effects of our campaign are felt nationally

This movement has implications far beyond Iowa. The 2020 caucus provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to highlight the impacts of industrial agriculture — contaminated drinking water, hollowed out rural communities, the number of family-scale farms in freefall. Eight Democratic presidential candidates publicly supported a factory farm moratorium after seeing firsthand what corporate agriculture has done to Iowa and after hearing from people who live in factory farm-impacted communities across the state. Following the caucus, Senator Cory Booker introduced the Farm System Reform Act which was later introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna in the House of Representatives. This visionary legislation proposes to completely overhaul our farm system and ban new large factory farms after 2040. In addition to building the national movement to rein in factory farms, the FSRA has also ignited a series of state and local efforts, with moratoria bills now introduced in several states and local officials considering what they can do to stop the spread of factory farms. Without this work in Iowa, the national call to stop factory farming would still be a whisper.

In 2018, when factory farm moratorium legislation was first introduced at the Capitol, 10 Representatives and 1 Senator co-sponsored the bills. Most legislators wouldn’t even dare discuss a moratorium at that time. Our opponents didn’t even bother to comment on the bills because they thought the idea was too outlandish to ever get off the ground. But things have changed. The number of co-sponsors has now more than doubled with several members of the Democratic leadership co-sponsoring or expressing support for the legislation, and even some Republicans have been interested in meeting with us and with constituents to discuss the bills.  And in response to this rising power, House Speaker Grassley and powerful industry groups like the Iowa Pork Producers are promoting their false narratives about a moratorium in the media  — we’ve clearly caught their attention. ButIowans aren’t falling for it. Not when we can see the increasing number — now 774 — of water impairments across our state or the 40% of farm workers who have lost their jobs over the past two decades. Not as our rural communities are struggling to survive and the impacts of the climate crisis continue to compound. People are increasingly aware that our state, our communities, and our people cannot thrive alongside this system of corporate agriculture.

Iowans want a food and farm system that works for us, not against us. While our current elected officials may kneel to the factory farm industry, the people of Iowa are fighting back — and fighting for our right to clean water, for a system of agriculture that empowers independent farmers and builds resiliency in our rural communities, and for our interests to be put before the profits of multi-billion dollar agribusinesses. Our bills may not have advanced during this legislative session, but it’s coming. Iowa is a critical policy forum in which to advance this work, and we’re building an incredibly powerful movement in Iowa and beyond. There is nothing the barons of Big Ag can do to stop us.

Add your name now to stop factory farms.