Trial scheduled in Floyd County family’s fight with CO2 pipeline company

A Floyd County family’s fight to keep pipeline surveyors off its property is scheduled to go to trial in August.

Summit Carbon Solutions, LLC, which plans to construct a carbon capture pipeline through Iowa, filed suit on Dec. 20 against Gary L., John E., Sandra K. and Joshua Lee Marth and the Marth Family Revocable Trust. The company claims state law gives it the right to enter and survey private property for its project.

Summit has tried and failed since last April to get permission from the Marths for a survey crew to access particular tracts of their property east of Rockford, according to the lawsuit. The crew would examine the cropland to determine appropriate depth and direction of the proposed pipeline.

Storage buildings at an ethanol plant in New Hampton. (Screen grab)

“Inherent in landowners’ property rights is the right to exclude others from their land,” says a January court filing on behalf of the Marth family answering the lawsuit.

A non-jury trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 16 at the Floyd County Courthouse in Charles City. District Court Judge Rustin T. Davenport is presiding over the case. The court expects the trial to last two days.

The Domina Law Group of Omaha, Nebraska, is representing the Marths.

Fredrickson & Byron, P.A. of Des Moines is representing Summit.

The Marths responded to the lawsuit with a court filing in January that refers to Summit Carbon Solutions as “Hazardous Pipeline Company.” Among the points argued in the 17-page document is the claim that state law cited by Summit allowing access actually violates the Iowa Constitution.

“Landowner denies the validity of this statute and thereby each of its provisions,” the Marths filing says. “This language in § 479B.15 expressly conflicts with the Iowa Constitution and the U.S. Constitution and Iowa Code § 479B.17 which requires pipeline companies to pay for the right of entry onto private land. By stating this ‘entry for land surveys’ is not a trespass, the legislature circumvents the constitutional requirement of just compensation for a taking. A government regulation that authorizes third parties to physically invade private property is a per se taking that requires just compensation.”

In response, a filing by Summit says that an Iowa court ruling in Dakota Access, LLC v. Laverne I. Johnson, determined that 479B.15 does not violate the takings clause of the Iowa Constitution.

The proposed pipeline is intended transport carbon dioxide captured at ethanol plants in Iowa and other Midwest states to North Dakota for underground storage.