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

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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!

Carbon Capture & Storage Explained: The New Fossil Fuel Frontier

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mia DiFelice

We’re running out of time to fight the consequences of our fossil fuel dependence. Everyday, we face headlines on raging wildfires, parching droughts, devastating hurricanes and other climate disasters. Experts have made it clear: we should have plugged carbon emissions yesterday. 

But what if we could only take emissions out of the fossil fuel equation?

That’s the fantasy that industry leaders and many politicians are pushing above anything else. But it’s just another scam that will boost profits and double down on polluting industry, with disastrous consequences for communities already sickened by air and water toxins from dirty energy power plants.

This fantasy goes by the name of carbon capture and storage. It refers to technologies designed to trap and remove carbon emissions from smokestacks or the atmosphere itself. And it’s gotten a lot of buzz lately. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated billions of dollars to develop and deploy carbon capture. The Inflation Reduction Act will send billions more. 

But carbon capture isn’t a solution to climate change. In fact, it will entrench and grow the pollution that has already plagued frontline communities for decades. 

Here’s how it works, and what the industry and its hacks won’t tell you.

Carbon Capture Technology is Dangerous, Expensive — And it Just Doesn’t Work

The industry claims that carbon capture technology stores carbon deep underground, forever. But corporations don’t have a good track record when it comes to pumping stuff underground. 

Oil and gas companies routinely inject drilling wastewater deep into the earth, and even wells deemed safe at the outset have leaked. Pumping wastewater underground has contaminated well water and even disrupted local geology, causing earthquakes.

Even if this end-use were foolproof, it’s not the one the carbon capture facilities actually use. In fact, 95% of carbon currently captured is used for enhanced oil recovery. That means the carbon is injected into old oil and gas wells to push out every last drop — contributing to our vicious cycle of fossil fuel dependence. 

Moreover, carbon capture is incredibly energy-intensive. That, combined with the emissions of the fossil fuels they perpetuate, has meant that U.S. carbon capture projects have actually led to a net increase in emissions, not a decrease.

And we are paying a lot for these emissions. Failed carbon capture projects have cost us billions in taxpayer dollars and will cost us billions more. We are paying through the nose for projects that don’t work, yet allow coal and other dirty energies to persist.

Carbon Capture is a Multi-Purpose Boondoggle

This climate scam will be used to greenwash a variety of dirty energy sources — for example, ethanol. Industry has touted ethanol made from growing corn as a “renewable” fuel source. But corn ethanol is actually an estimated 24% more emissions-intensive than gasoline. It also causes a host of other problems, from higher corn prices to entrenching industrial agriculture practices. 

Carbon capture stands to entrench the corn ethanol industry by green-washing it even more. The rush to get CCS technology into ethanol has already begun. Thousands of miles of pipelines planned for Iowa would transport CO2 from ethanol and fertilizer facilities to injection sites.

There’s hardly a dirty energy that carbon capture doesn’t prop up. The fossil fuel industry plans to use it to revive dying coal and fracked gas plants. If allowed, they’ll attach it to hydrogen power generation derived from fracked gas.

Across the dirty energy sector, corporations plan to use carbon capture as a cover to continue emitting, polluting and threatening our health and safety. 

Carbon Capture Entrenches Dangerous Industry in Vulnerable Communities

If industry execs get their way, carbon capture will subject frontline communities to more pollution. We already know that children playing near fossil fuel power plants are at greater risk for asthma and other respiratory illnesses. We know that fracking operations leak toxic chemicals into our air and water

Carbon capture would also require a huge infrastructure buildout with devastating consequences for those nearby. 

For example, carbon pipelines would turn a hefty profit for the same pipeline companies that have already wreaked havoc with oil and gas lines. From past experience, we can expect them to disrupt fragile ecosystems and threaten vulnerable communities. 

Carbon pipelines carry odorless, colorless CO2 that can displace oxygen and suffocate people to death. In 2020, a carbon pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi. The CO2 stopped emergency vehicles in their tracks, as it displaced the oxygen needed for fuel combustion. It sent 49 people to the hospital, and many victims still experienced symptoms months later.

We’ve already seen dangerous oil and gas pipelines leak, rupture and pollute. A carbon capture future means a future with even more deadly illnesses and accidents.  

We Won’t Let The Fossil Fuel Industry Get Away With Its Latest Scam

Compared to a full green energy transition, carbon capture doesn’t add up. We know renewables are proven, safer and cheaper. Unlike carbon capture, we don’t need more demonstration projects or research and development to see if renewables actually work.

Fossil fuel corporations are waving the illusion of carbon capture in our faces, distracting us from the energy transition we know we need. If allowed to continue, they’ll use it to double down on dirty energy, saddling the rest of us with more pollution and even more emissions. And there isn’t a region of this country CCS won’t touch. Projects threaten states across the country, from California to New Mexico to Ohio

With the flood of public funds rushing into the carbon capture industry, it’s more important than ever to take a stand against these projects. In the coming months, Food & Water Watch will be keeping you up to date with new proposals and new scams. 

When the fracking boom hit, we quickly recognized that this new “bridge fuel” would be a bridge to nowhere. That it would harm communities and fail to fight climate change. Now, we see the fossil fuel industry playing the same game with carbon capture. We can’t and we won’t let them stall us on real climate action.

Knowledge is power. Share it with your friends and family!

In California: Big Win On Setbacks, Big Setback On Carbon Capture

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mark Schlosberg and Tomás Rebecchi

As California continues to face record temperatures and a historic dry period supercharged by climate change, the state legislature passed a series of bills, called for by Governor Newsom, to address the climate crisis. The result, however, was a mixed bag. 

The good news? The legislature passed a bill requiring a 3,200-foot setback between oil and gas wells and homes, schools and other vulnerable sites. This is a significant win for communities that have been advocating for setbacks for years. 

And the bad? The legislature also advanced a bill to fast track carbon capture, a costly and unproven industry scheme that will extend our dependence on fossil fuels. It also moved to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. 

The Setbacks Bill Is A Huge Win For Communities Near Oil & Gas Operations

First, the good news (and it really is good news) — California passed a law (SB 1137) requiring a setback of 3,200 feet between oil and gas operations and sensitive locations like homes and schools. 

More than 2.7 million Californians live within 3,200 feet of an operational oil or gas well. For years, advocates have documented the public health impacts of these operations. 

The legislation would require a 3,200-foot buffer zone and prevent reworks of existing wells, providing a pathway for ending existing operations. 

This setback law came out of a multi-year campaign led by environmental justice coalition VISION. Thousands of Food & Water Watch supporters joined this effort through phone calls and written letters, hearings and rallies. 

Though Governor Newsom could have instituted a setback by executive action earlier in his term, this legislation is an unequivocal win for public health and communities. 

However, much work remains to protect communities from fossil fuel operations. Notably, the legislation didn’t include setbacks for polluting infrastructure like gas compressors or gas storage facilities. This is crucial for communities like Ventura, Playa Del Rey and Porter Ranch, where we are fighting dangerous SoCalGas facilities next to schools and homes. Stopping these operations must be a priority going forward. 

Legislature’s Embrace Of Carbon Capture Is A BigSetback for Climate Efforts 

Unfortunately, while advancing setbacks, Newsom also pushed legislation that embraces carbon capture, the climate scam backed by Wall Street speculators and polluting corporations

Currently, the California Air Resources Board is developing California’s climate plan according to the state’s climate change law. But CARB has drawn widespread criticism from environmental organizations for considering carbon capture. 

The media often talks about carbon capture as a proven technology, but most projects have under-performed and ended in failure. Projects rely on more fossil fuel power generation to run, and we can expect leaked emissions throughout the production and transportation. 

Taking this into account, capturing 90% of carbon emissions (which no plant has yet accomplished) means only 39% emissions reductions through the whole supply chain, from extraction to combustion. 

Widespread carbon capture comes with a host of other problems, from increased pollution to higher utility bills for ratepayers. 

But it all comes down to this: carbon capture will boost power demand, extending the life of fossil fuel power plants and extraction. That’s why the technology has been embraced by some of the world’s largest fossil fuel corporations. 

Newsom had previously called on CARB to prioritize carbon capture. After massive pushback on carbon capture through public comments to CARB, the governor turned to the legislature to advance SB 905. This bill would establish state policy to deploy carbon capture as a climate change strategy. 

While the bill prevents industry from using captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery (injecting the CO2 into wells to push out every last drop), it still advances carbon capture across the state. During debates on the floor this session, advocates of SB 905 have also made clear — they’re hoping to see carbon capture deployed statewide. 

Food & Water Watch partnered with Center for Biological Diversity and Indigenous Environmental Network to lead opposition to the carbon capture bill, though most organizations did not weigh in on it. Unfortunately, we saw even some of the state’s most progressive legislators embrace SB 905. 

California Needs Near Zero, Not Net Zero

Newson also advanced AB 1279, which sets a goal for California to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2045, rather than near zero emissions. With net zero, California subtracts things like carbon capture and offsets from their emissions calculations. This allows the oil and gas industry to keep emitting and polluting. 

But we can directly reduce emissions by phasing out fossil fuels completely. A rapid ramp-up of renewable energy coupled with a draw down of fossil fuels is more efficient and less expensive. And, it will bring an end to the pollution that has plagued Californians for too long. 

Along these lines, California legislators considered a bill that would have mandated an additional 15% emissions reduction by 2030 (from 40% to 55% below 1990 levels). But notably, that bill failed. 

Going forward, we have a lot of work to do to educate our decision makers on carbon capture’s insurmountable downsides, and our need for a fast and complete energy transition.

Newsom Dodges Renewables With A Nuclear Bailout

In addition to setbacks and carbon capture, Newsom called for a bailout and extension of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power facility. This session, the legislature advanced a bill to do just that. 

The dangerous facility sits near fault lines and was slated to close in 2025. The legislature postponed the date to 2030 and provided a potentially forgivable $1.4 billion loan to fund the extension. 

But rather than throwing money at nuclear power, the state should be pouring all available resources into developing solar and wind. 

In this session, Governor Newsom and the legislature took significant action to protect communities with setbacks. But “climate strategies” like carbon capture won’t address the scientific realities we’re facing. The state’s climate policy remains a far cry from strong climate leadership. Our elected officials need to be better educated on what we really need for climate change response. We need to collectively call, in no uncertain terms, for bolder action. 

For starters, spread the word on carbon capture — it’s a scam, not a solution.

Learn more about the carbon capture boondoggle and why we need renewable energy, fast.

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!

Will The Manchin Climate Bill Reduce Climate Pollution?

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Jim Walsh and Peter Hart

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) takes aim at a lot of things over the next decade — everything from prescription drug prices to corporate tax rates. For climate advocates, the headlining claim is this: the IRA would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 42%.

But that target isn’t actually in the bill. In fact, there are no emissions targets in the bill at all. Instead, this legislation relies on carrots (money to nudge private markets in the right direction) over sticks (actual mandates to reduce pollution).

So where does that 42% number come from? And is that reduction actually likely?

Several models claim to predict the IRA’s outcomes, but the one getting the most attention is from Princeton University’s REPEAT Project. Its model estimates that, without any new legislation, emissions will fall about 27% from 2005 highs. With the IRA, according to the model, emissions could fall about 42%.

But the model relies on some suspect reductions. For example, that 42% would need an astonishing turnaround for so-called carbon capture technologies. And it forecasts a massive increase in the deployment of clean energy — as well as tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles with requirements that no maker can meet yet.

The Analysis Makes A Bad Bet On Carbon Capture

The REPEAT analysis acknowledges that carbon capture is currently responsible for almost no emissions reductions. However, it projects that emissions reductions from carbon capture will reach 50 megatons of carbon by 2024 — mostly from coal plants -– and 200 million tons per year by 2030. 

There’s no explanation for this miraculous growth, but the analysis nonetheless suggests there will be “6 gigawatts of carbon capture retrofits at existing coal-fired power plants and 18 gigawatts of gas power plants with carbon capture installed by 2030.” These assumptions would require $17 billion in carbon capture tax credits in 2030 alone. That is far more than the $3.2 billion total 2022-2031 expenditure the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Overall, the analysis assumes that carbon capture would deliver “roughly one-sixth to one-fifth” of total emissions cuts. This is an unfathomable improvement for an industry that has failed to deliver emissions reductions after decades of research and billions in funding. 

The analysis also leaves its assumptions unclear on the actual emissions reductions of carbon capture technology. While the industry claims it can capture 90% of emissions, real-world analyses of full lifecycle emissions put that figure closer to 39%, at best. And captured CO2 is almost entirely used for more oil drilling, eliminating any supposed climate benefits.

Counting On Cars That Might Not Exist

The analysis also pins emissions reductions on changes to existing tax credits for electric vehicles. But there are serious questions about this policy. Several reports have already noted that there are currently no EVs that will meet the IRA’s requirements. The bill mandates that tax credits can only go to EVs with battery and mineral components sourced from the U.S. or favored trading partners. 

The supply chains to make these cars don’t even exist yet, but the model assumes they will. It seems logical to think a more generous tax credit would increase EV purchases. However, real-world limitations could significantly limit projected emissions reductions. 

The Model Misses Fossil Fuels And Frontline Communities 

The REPEAT analysis also assumes continued growth in fossil fuels; gas-fired power and coal stay strong in the energy mix. This is particularly concerning for communities near fossil fuel infrastructure. They’ll see more pollution from facilities receiving subsidies under the IRA. This is more than just wasting money on dirty infrastructure — it could increase pollution under the guise of climate action.

The fossil fuel industry is also pushing for a massive expansion of fossil fuel exports, which the REPEAT modeling acknowledges. Yet, it doesn’t account for those greenhouse gas emissions in its 42% claims. 

The model also doesn’t account for the “side deal” that secured the support of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, which calls for fast-tracking major new energy projects. Right now, we can’t calculate how that agreement might work, but it explicitly aims to build new sources of pollution more quickly. 

All of this — as well as the IRA’s unconscionable provisions on new drilling on public lands — will take a serious toll on communities near polluting facilities, and will lock us into continued climate emissions.

It Doesn’t Capture Leaking Methane

The IRA’s only provision that directly addresses oil and gas industry emissions is a fee on methane leaks. Under the bill, the fee would rise to $1,500 per ton in 2026. But negotiations with Senator Manchin substantially weakened this provision. Now, it won’t apply to the majority of the industry. 

While that is not part of the REPEAT analysis, we note that they rely on a 100-year timeframe to calculate the CO2 equivalence of methane (instead of 20 years). This is misleading because so much of methane’s climate impact comes in the near-term. 

Moreover, the analysis uses outdated assumptions from the EPA that significantly underestimate methane leakage and the impacts of gas on warming in general.

There’s A Difference Between Models And Reality

There are also fundamental questions about the type of forecasting used in the REPEAT analysis. How well do these models predict the future? What assumptions do they make?

On that count, the report includes caveats that readers might miss. “Optimization modeling used in this work assumes rational economic behavior from all actors,” the authors write. They add that “these results indicate what decisions make good economic sense for consumers and businesses to make … whether or not actors make such decisions in the real world depends on many factors we are unable to model.”

Energy industry actors don’t make rational decisions based on costs, consumer benefits or the public good. For instance, clean renewable power is cheap and abundant, yet utilities embrace fossil fuels. That’s in part because they profit from existing infrastructure that poisons communities and the climate. 

Additionally, the REPEAT modeling doesn’t calculate increases in water and air pollution that will come from carbon capture, hydrogen and other fossil fuel infrastructure likely under the IRA. Increases in harmful emissions other than carbon dioxide and methane will inevitably result from more fracking, pipelines and fossil fuel power plants, too. The burden will fall on disadvantaged communities. Models don’t show these impacts, but they’re real nonetheless.

42% isn’t even close — people need to know about the IRA’s real climate impact.

Iowans: Is Your County Taking a Stand Against Pipelines?

Categories

Climate and Energy

Nevada, Iowa. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Photolibrarian / Flickr
by Emma Schmit and Phoebe Galt

The Midwest has become a new frontier in a battle against carbon pipelines. Corporations are moving fast to cash in on the fossil fuel industry’s latest bogus climate solution. Central to pipeline developers plans: Iowa. With these projects, Iowa could see 1,930 new miles of hazardous pipeline laid across 57 counties. If these companies get their way, two proposals alone would almost double the length of CO2 pipelines in the U.S.

On top of that, they’re scheming to build through private lands under eminent domain, with no need for landowners’ permission. This would introduce explosive health risks to communities — for example, a ruptured pipeline can leak deadly amounts of odorless CO2 for miles. But across Iowa, local governments are taking a stand.

See how your county is fighting back.

What Power Do Local Governments Have?

Carbon pipelines are dangerously under-regulated. They rely on minor state-level approvals and limited federal permits to secure eminent domain authority and start construction. But local governments have an important role to play.

County Boards of Supervisors are charged with protecting the health and safety of their communities and their constituents. They have a crucial role to play in stopping carbon pipeline construction. From zoning restrictions to political leverage, inspector hiring to Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) docket intervention, they have plenty of tools at their disposal. 

Counties are also taking legal action against the carbon pipelines. For example, legally binding ordinances would place strict parameters on pipeline construction. Under the Model Ordinance drafted by Food & Water Watch put forward to Supervisors in all impacted counties, they can decide how far away from hospitals, schools and homes pipelines must be built. They can also require specific emergency response service capacity before pipelines can operate. With these decisions, local governments wield critical power to keep their constituents safe. 

More Than Half Of Impacted Iowa Counties Object to Carbon Pipelines

Summit Carbon Solutions is the first company to move through the IUB permitting process. The company is behind the proposal for the world’s largest carbon pipeline (2,000 miles), a third of which will pass through Iowa. Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures is behind the second pipeline, proposed to cover roughly 1,300 miles, two-thirds of which would pass through Iowa. ADM/Wolf are behind a third 350-mile pipeline.

The IUB docket for Summit’s project is already chock-full of formal objections from County Boards of Supervisors. Local governments are joining their constituents in submitting official opposition statements to the IUB, which will decide the projects’ fate. The message is clear — dangerous carbon pipelines are unwelcome in Iowa.

As of September 14:

  • 70% of all Iowa counties impacted by carbon pipeline proposals have submitted formal objections.
  • 60% of counties impacted by Wolf have submitted formal objections.
  • 80% of the Iowa counties impacted by Summit have submitted formal objections.
  • 52% of Iowa counties impacted by Navigator have submitted formal objections.

Will Pipelines Affect Your County?

A staggering swath of Iowa counties is going to be affected by the push for planned pipelines. Objections? They have more than a few.

We Need Everybody On Board: Add Your Voice 

We need to use every tool in our toolbox to fight these pipelines. Whether or not your county has yet submitted a formal objection, you can ask them to pass a Model Ordinance that will protect your community. Call on your county supervisors to do their part and stand up to these dangerous projects now:

Tell Your County Supervisors: No CO2 Pipelines in Iowa!