DANGEROUS: Here’s What Iowans Need to Know About Carbon Pipeline Ruptures

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Emma Schmit

Two years ago, on a quiet winter night in the small town of Satartia, Mississippi, a fog sucked the oxygen out of the air. Cars rolled to a stop. Folks collapsed in their homes. The culprit — a nearby carbon pipeline had ruptured. 

Dan Zegart was the first national journalist to investigate the catastrophe, which hospitalized 49. Now, he’s covering the fight against pipelines in Iowa, where three corporations are plotting 3,000 miles of pipeline. 

These pipelines are part of the dirty energy industry’s newest scam: carbon capture and storage. Companies claim that they’ll store the CO2 carried by these lines safely underground. That they’ll help reduce emissions and fight climate change. But it won’t work, and it’s not safe. 

In an interview with our Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit, Dan lays out dangers and risks of carbon pipelines. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Dan Zegart, investigative journalist, sits down with Emma Schmit, FWW's senior Iowa organizer

“I Was Surprised By The Sheer Level Of Chaos.”

You broke the story on how dangerous these pipelines can be. What took you by surprise going into it? 

The people in Satartia were not prepared. They were not notified by the company that this could happen. They had very little knowledge about the pipeline, and that didn’t really surprise me that much. 

But what did surprise me was the graveness, how bad the injuries were. People who had COPD under control who are now on inhalers full time. People who are disoriented still, have memory problems. One of the most seriously injured people can’t recognize his friends on the street. He can’t hold a job because he can’t remember what he’s supposed to do.

I was surprised by the sheer level of chaos that this caused this little place. And the heroic, almost battlefield mentality of the first responders who went in.

The folks who had been overcome by CO2 were wandering around, disorientated. Their cars had stalled because the CO2 displaces oxygen. They wandered into town, had absolutely no idea where they were.

When one of the first responders got to this one couple, they were so out of it he had to scream at them, “Get in my truck or you’re gonna die!” They still didn’t understand, so he had to physically put them into his truck. 

So think about that in the context of, let’s say, a break near a school, an old folks home, a strip mall. What’s gonna happen to those people? How are they gonna get to them without internal combustion engines? They’re not! There’s no guaranteed path to safety. 

Carbon Pipelines Are “A Much More Hazardous Type of Pipeline.”

What did the accident at Satartia teach us about carbon pipelines? 

We found that you can’t necessarily predict where the plume of CO2 is gonna go, how long it’s gonna be in the air. All the models that had been done to predict it — those were all wrong. So we’re back to the drawing board as far as engineering these pipelines. 

It’s back to the drawing board for public health, too, because no one knew it could have this kind of impact. And it’s back to the drawing board on the regulations side, because we know we need stronger safety regulations and much more scrutiny on this technology. 

The ones talking about carbon pipelines say, “We’ve been able to do it with this product, we can do it with CO2.” Nope! You can’t. It’s not something that should just be grandfathered in as, “Oh, it’s just another pipeline.” It’s actually, in many ways, a much more hazardous type of pipeline.

The people in Satartia were the guinea pigs. They were sacrificed for this technology. And unless we want a lot more sacrifices like that, we better put a stop to this because we don’t know what we’re doing.

The burst pipeline in Satartia blew a crater in the ground and powdered the surrounding dirt with white.
Image of the 24-inch pressurized pipe ruptured in Yazoo County forcing more than 300 residents to evacuate and sent 49 people to hospitals for treatment, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Image courtesy of Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency

Big Oil Knows That Carbon Pipelines “Allow Them To Stay Alive Longer.” 

What are your thoughts on these three pipelines proposed for Iowa?

These companies jumped in for no other reason than the federal government is offering a tremendous amount of money for carbon capture and sequestration projects to be built. 

The amount of carbon that they’re actually going to sequester is tiny compared to what’s already going into our atmosphere. Trivial. If the current proposals for carbon capture were all built, and we built the additional 65,000 miles of pipeline to accommodate them, that would only take care of about 15% of current emissions.

But emissions are continuing to go up, and that will become an even smaller percentage. And in the meantime, we’re gonna forgo opportunities to produce less carbon, as we move through the century.

Why, after knowing all the safety concerns, how this technology doesn’t work, are we still trying to make carbon capture happen?

Because the oil companies have realized that the prospect, even the idea of carbon capture, allows them to stay alive longer. Maybe they’ll never have to change if we bury the emissions. 

Unfortunately, carbon has no value. CO2 is the industry’s waste. So they’re forcing taxpayers to pay to throw out their garbage. Nobody else gets paid to throw out their garbage. We don’t subsidize restaurants to throw out their rotting fish. That’s up to them.  

“No One Wants To Be Poisoned.”

In Iowa, this issue has brought your standard rural Republican together with your left wing Democrat. Why has this issue resonated and overcome the divide that has grown over the past decade?

First of all, it attacks what in many ways is a fundamental value in our democratic system, in our capitalist system, which is that private property is sacrosanct.

If you can’t own your own land without some for-profit company coming in, and their product is not even gonna help you, then anybody could do it. Some landowners went through that already with Keystone XL or the Dakota Access Pipeline. They’re not having it this time. 

And I think the other issue that’s brought this very unusual coalition together is safety. No one wants to be poisoned, and there’s a good chance of that with these pipelines. 

It’s extraordinary because I’ve been in meetings where you have 100 farmers and 15 or 20 people who are definitely on the climate side of things. You’ll have people who voted for Trump, people who voted for Biden, or Bernie, or whomever, and that stuff doesn’t ever get in the way. 

People just talk to each other as neighbors. That’s the American way, you know. Coalition-building. It’s supposed to be. You have the makings of a movement in people talking to each other, people putting their differences aside. There aren’t many examples of that in American life in 2022. 

We Can Stop Carbon Pipelines When We Stand Together.

What would you say to folks who are currently fighting pipelines near them?

I’ve covered 10 or 12 of these pipeline fights. They weren’t carbon pipelines, because this is the first time this technology is being built. But in those dozen or so, a few of them have failed. The infrastructure was rejected, or the people who were funding it had had enough. 

With the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, one of the biggest projects on the drawing board was stopped dead. Investors pulled out. The Mountain Valley Pipeline was all but done before this whole side deal came up between Biden and Manchin. 

There’s tremendous resistance that’s been built. So if you don’t think you can stop this — it can be stopped. And the common element in all the successes is people standing together.

Iowans, tell the state Utilities Board to say NO to dangerous carbon pipelines!

An Economist Breaks Down The Costs of Carbon Pipelines In Iowa

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

by Emma Schmit

Iowans are facing a monumental threat in a David-and-Goliath showdown: it’s the people against the pipelines and their dirty energy backers. The proposed hazardous pipelines would carry carbon dioxide from ethanol and fertilizer facilities across 2,000 miles in Iowa. They would extend thousands of miles across five states from Illinois to North Dakota, bolstering a failing technology known as “carbon capture.”

Three corporations stand to profit from polluting industries’ latest scam. The projects are eligible for billions of taxpayer dollars earmarked for climate action, without actually making a dent in the climate crisis. Food & Water Watch is helping Iowans fight the projects every step of the way.

This week, Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit corresponded with Dr. Silvia Secchi to discuss the proposed pipelines. Dr. Secchi is an economist and professor at the University of Iowa’s Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences. She is a published author on the environmental impacts of agricultural land use in the Corn Belt. Her research focuses on the relationship between agricultural, conservation and energy policy in the region. 

In this interview, Emma and Dr. Secchi talk about the projects’ unfair costs to Iowans and our alternatives to actually fight climate change. We’ve edited this interview for clarity and length. 

Carbon Capture Will Benefit Corporations, Not Iowans

What’s your stance on Iowa’s proposed carbon pipelines? What’s your top concern?

I wouldn’t say that I oppose the proposed carbon pipelines, but the science shows that they aren’t a good carbon mitigation strategy. The only reason they’re being considered is because of who the beneficiaries are and their political clout in both parties. They don’t make any sense otherwise — socially, economically and environmentally. 

My main concern is that the public truly understands these issues, because we are literally paying for the pipelines through federal subsidies. The pipelines would not be built without them. It is critical that we have clear, evidence-based conversations on costs and benefits. That includes who benefits and who pays for these projects; what we call the distributional effects. 

Let me give you an example: if a project costs $100 million and the benefits are $200 million, you may say it makes sense. But if the $200 million go to Jeff Bezos and people in rural Iowa pay the $100 million, would you still go ahead? And with the pipelines, the benefits are clearly not higher than the costs to start with.

Pipeline companies have often exaggerated the societal benefits they generate. Have you seen this with any of the Iowa projects?

Yes, I have. It is common for these companies to hire consultants who, on the basis of data provided by the company itself, estimate egregious and inaccurately high benefits. This has been the case for the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone, and now for the ethanol CO2 pipelines. 

I urge everybody to look at the disclaimers that are present in these reports. They essentially say that the report is a PR stunt and should not be used for any other purpose. It is particularly important that elected officials don’t take these reports’ claims at face value, because they aren’t vetted and aren’t peer reviewed.

We Don’t Need Carbon Capture To Tackle Climate Change

Proponents pitch carbon capture as critical technology to address the climate crisis. But it actually stands to increase the profits of dirty energy corporations. What are some legitimate practices we can implement instead to mitigate the climate crisis?

I am so glad you asked this question because this is the really critical one. Our agricultural system is a big contributor to climate change. One of the main reasons is that it’s very reliant on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are in artificial fertilizers and pesticides. They’re integral to confinement operations (factory farms) and the overproduction of livestock animals.

If we modified our agricultural system, which exists as it does because of federal subsidies and not because of market forces, we could help both the climate and rural communities. Those changes could include less fossil fuel-intensive inputs, such as artificial fertilizer. We could also raise fewer animals (and use their manure as fertilizer) and add more perennial plants to the landscape. 

Former Iowa State University Professor Matt Liebman talked about some of these changes in our “We All Want Clean Water” podcast. These are solid, science-backed changes, and we could implement them all through the Farm Bill. These changes make a lot more sense socially, economically and environmentally than doubling down on corn ethanol.

Iowans Are United: No Carbon Pipelines!

In Iowa, the proposed carbon pipelines are creating unlikely alliances, from farmers and environmentalists to folks from both sides of the aisle. 

In your opinion, why has carbon capture become both a unifying issue?

A lot of credit has to go to the organizers on the ground who have done an amazing job listening to people. They’ve made the concerns really apparent to the rest of us. I think that people in Iowa really understand who the beneficiaries of the pipelines are. 

These types of projects have short-lived economic benefits that largely go to specialized corporations and contractors from out of state, but the environmental risks and costs are long-term. 

They’ll fall on local communities that do not have the resources to address them and should not be asked to. People in rural Iowa can see that they will be stuck with the costs of these projects for a very long time. 

With what’s happening with the pipelines, we have a real opportunity to think about the future of the Heartland. We can think about how we spend public money to address climate change and help rural communities.

What else do Iowans need to know about these projects?

The oil and gas industry is a big proponent of carbon capture. It allows the industry to continue to pollute and receive government subsidies while appearing to “solve” the climate issue. These kinds of policies do not benefit the majority of Iowans. And Iowans are, in fact, stuck paying for them. 

The only reason these pipeline proposals are put forward is because we have been trained to think that we cannot change the way we farm and use energy. But we farm this way and use energy this way because of policies our government put in place. The policies aren’t working for most of us, and they should be changed. 

There is nothing inevitable or pre-determined about the way we farm. We can and should demand better from our government in the fight against climate change.


Help Us Fight Iowa’s Carbon Pipelines

We can stop the pipelines planned for Iowa. The first of three major projects has reached the Iowa Utilities Board, which has final power to approve or deny permits. The Board needs to hear what Iowans really think about carbon pipelines.

Tell IUB: Carbon pipelines have no place in Iowa!

The Outrageous Conflicts Of Interest Surrounding Iowa’s Carbon Pipelines

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Emma Schmit and Phoebe Galt

Iowa has become a battleground of opposition to hazardous carbon pipelines. Three corporations have proposed nearly 2,000 miles of pipeline within Iowa to transport carbon dioxide from ethanol and fertilizer facilities. These pipelines are part of a bogus scheme known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

For more than a year, Iowans have raised concerns about the pipelines proposed by corporations Summit, Navigator and ADM/Wolf. The projects will not lower emissions nor address the climate crisis.

But they will threaten private property rights through eminent domain and present a dangerously under-regulated public safety concern. 

Another concern? Cash and conflicts of interest. Here are four ways carbon capture corporations have infiltrated Iowa’s politics.

1. Pipeline Execs Donated Hundred of Thousands To Top Elected Officials

Iowa’s leading politicians are indebted to the monied individuals behind these carbon pipeline schemes. Nearly every top Republican in Iowa has cashed checks from Bruce Rastetter, CEO of the group behind the Summit pipeline proposal.

As of August 4, Governor Kim Reynolds had accepted $188,902 of Rastetter’s donations. Meanwhile, Navigator executives have made their own cash contributions. Together, they’ve donated thousands to House Majority Leader Pat Grassley, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and Governor Reynolds. And these donations flooded in right before the 2022 legislative session. 

With these numbers, it’s no surprise that last spring, all three worked to kill legislation that would have prevented corporations from using eminent domain for these pipelines. 

2. Corporate Lobbying To Date Outspent A Similar Project Almost 4:1

August lobbying disclosures make clear that pipeline companies have not limited their spending to campaign contributions. They’ve lobbied heavily during the most recent legislative session, too. In 2022, Summit spent $36,000 on lobbying efforts and Texas-based Navigator spent $16,600. Canadian corporation Wolf spent $40,000.

In total, these three corporations spent $92,600 to influence Iowa’s legislature during the last session. That’s almost four times what the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline spent on lobbying for their controversial project.

While leadership conveniently killed legislation on eminent domain, bills promoting carbon capture research and development passed with flying colors.

3. Carbon Corporation Hires Held Previous Power In Pipeline Politics

August lobbying filings revealed that Summit hired the same lobbyists that represent Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, to lobby for their proposed  carbon pipeline in the state legislature.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a hotly contested crude oil pipeline that runs through 18 counties in Iowa. The pipeline, which claimed eminent domain for its construction in 2016, has lowered crop yields and property values for landowners. 

What’s more, Iowa’s proposed pipelines present another shocking example of revolving doors between government and private industry. Several high-level Summit representatives recently served in Iowa’s state government.

Jake Ketzner, Summit’s Vice President of Governmental and Public Affairs, was previously Governor Reynolds’ chief of staff. Jeffrey Boeyink, a registered lobbyist for Summit and Energy Transfer Partners, was the chief of staff and campaign manager for Iowa’s previous governor, Terry Branstad. And now, Branstad himself works as chief policy advisor for Summit Carbon Solutions. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s son, Jess Vilsack, represents Summit as its general counsel. Secretary Vilsack has spent his career pushing the federal incentives that Summit will need to turn a profit. Just last year he allocated $25 million to another carbon capture project in North Dakota. His son now stands to cash in on these policies as Summit’s project advances. 

4. Board Members With Permitting Power Have History With Pipelines

The three-person Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) will ultimately decide if the proposed carbon pipeline projects can operate in the state. Its members are appointed by the governor.

Two of the current board members were appointed by former Governor Terry Branstad during the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline permitting process. (As a reminder, Branstad is now Chief Policy Advisor for Summit Carbon Solutions.) One IUB member, Richard Lozier, was a lawyer for a lobbying group that urged support for Dakota Access.

Moreover, the IUB’s previous general counsel, Samantha Norris, is now representing Navigator CO2 Ventures before the board. 

We Need People Power to Fight The Big Money Behind Carbon Capture

Behind these carbon pipeline proposals lies an intricate and massive web of powerful people. Cushy profiteers are playing inside games with Iowa leadership — and on the national stage.

For instance, in addition to its Iowa expenditures, Navigator has spent $760,000 on federal lobbying since it announced its project. Meanwhile, Senator Manchin’s support on the recent climate bill hinged on a disastrous backroom deal that, among other things, will fast-track approval of two carbon capture projects. 

Our elected leaders must remember who they’re accountable to: the people. While corporations can flood them with cash during campaign season, we have the power to keep them in office — or vote them out.

You can help us shut down these carbon capture schemes and make your voice heard. 

Tell the IUB “No!” to corporate interests and carbon pipelines!

Food & Water Watch Lawyers Are Fighting Carbon Pipelines

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Emma Schmit and Adam Carlesco

Corporations have proposed three carbon pipelines that would cut through 2,000 miles of Iowa land — whether landowners want them or not. 

These pipelines are part of a larger scheme known as carbon capture and storage. Through these high-pressure pipelines, corporations want to transport CO2 from polluting ethanol and fertilizer plants. From there, the carbon could be used for enhanced oil recovery. Similar to fracking, oil companies inject carbon into near-depleted oil fields to draw up the very last dregs of oil.  Alternatively, corporations may sequester the carbon underground, giving them larger tax credits from the federal government.

Carbon capture is expensive and unsound technology that has sparked a host of concerns throughout affected communities, including in Iowa. These concerns include pipelines’ safety risks, the cost to taxpayers, corporations’ use of eminent domain and carbon capture’s dubious climate credentials. Now, Iowans from all walks of life have united in opposition. Polling from our partner organization, Food & Water Action, found that 80% of Iowans oppose the use of eminent domain for these projects. 

Food & Water Watch is ready to fight tooth and nail to stop the CO2 pipelines. Pipeline companies have a long road ahead of them before their projects can break ground. Our lawyers will be there at every step, ensuring that the public’s health, safety and quality of life take priority over corporate interests. Here’s how we’ll do it.

First, Carbon Pipelines Need Permits

Carbon pipelines are highly underregulated, particularly by the federal government. But pipeline corporations will have to worm their way around a few environmental safeguards. Companies need permits to cross waterways, federal lands and the habitats of endangered species. 

Before construction can begin, these pipeline proposals will need permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for any dredging and filling in a U.S. waterway. The developers must also receive a right-of-way from the Bureau of Land Management if the pipelines cross any federal lands. Permitting agencies will also consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure no endangered species are impacted by the project.

Many states are a regulatory Wild West for carbon pipelines. These are the first carbon pipelines ever proposed in Iowa, so agencies are essentially writing rules as the projects move ahead. That said, companies have to meet a variety of state-level requirements to obtain the permits needed to break ground. These can differ from state to state, but in Iowa, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) is responsible for approving or denying the proposed carbon pipelines.

FWW Will Stand Before The Iowa Utilities Board

For each of the three pipeline proposals, the three-member IUB must decide whether the project serves the public interest. (Members of the board were appointed by Governor Reynolds and her predecessor, former Governor Branstad. Notably, Branstad now works for Summit Carbon Solutions, the first pipeline company to begin IUB’s permitting process.) 

The IUB must consider the projects’ impacts on public health, the environment and safety. To do that, it relies on those impacted by the project to raise issues affecting them, through the proceeding’s docket. Based on those testimonies, the project’s purported need and any other factor bearing on the public interest, the IUB will decide whether to approve the proposals or not. 

We’ll Be With Iowans Every Step Of The Way

We have a long road ahead of us to push back on these pipelines. The timeline of IUB hearings will stretch well into 2023 — and that’s just for Summit’s project. But Food & Water Watch is committed to this fight and will be with Iowans every step of the way.

This month, Food & Water Watch became an official legal party to Summit Carbon Solution’s IUB docket. We now have legal standing to engage in the IUB’s permitting process. This allows us to better fight for the interests of our 24,000 Iowa members and supporters by voicing concerns throughout the permit hearings and requesting rehearings as needed. After the hearing, the IUB will deny or grant the permit, as well as the use of eminent domain. If the Board does greenlight Summit’s dangerous proposal, we’ll be ready to appeal.

We’re putting our all into this fight, from our lawyers, to our organizers, to our policy experts. But our most powerful support will come from you. Will you join us?

With so much on the line, it’s critical that the Iowa Utilities Board hears from you. Our opponents may spend billions to fight this issue, but they will never match the power created by people coming together. It’s up to us to hold the agencies designed to protect us accountable. We must demand that the IUB puts the interests of Iowans before the interests of private corporations. Tell the IUB that Iowans do not support hazardous carbon pipelines by sending a message now.

Tell the IUB: No Carbon Pipelines!

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

Categories

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

Categories

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?

Categories

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.

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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.