Trespassing case might test Iowa’s pipeline survey law

cigaretteman

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May 29, 2001
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A land surveyor for Summit Carbon Solutions faces a criminal trial in December for allegedly trespassing on land in Northwest Iowa that is part of the company’s proposed carbon dioxide pipeline route, according to court records.


State law allows the land surveys — without the threat of a trespassing charge — after hazardous liquid pipeline companies hold informational meetings about the projects and send notice to landowners, ahead of the project being permitted by the Iowa Utilities Board. The surveys are meant to help determine the path and depth of the potential pipelines.


“For now, we’re on the side of the farmer because I don’t know who’s been notified and who hasn’t, and it’s their property,” Dickinson County Sheriff Greg Baloun said. “If you’ve been asked to leave, you’re supposed to leave, otherwise it’s trespassing.”


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The criminal charge stems from an attempt to survey farmland east of Spirit Lake in August, court records show. Jeff Jones, a nephew of the landowner, has farmed that ground for decades. He raises crops and cattle with his two adult sons.


Jones worries that the pipeline — which would cut about a mile-long path through the property — would disrupt drainage tile in the fields and hamper crop yields. But that’s not the main issue.


“I’m more upset that they think they can do whatever they want and take whatever they want,” he said.


The threat of eminent domain looms for scads of landowners across the state. Summit seeks to build about 680 miles of pipe in the northwestern half of the state that would transport captured carbon dioxide away from ethanol plants. Two other companies want to build similar pipelines, including one that includes Linn County.


It’s possible that unwilling landowners will be forced to grant the companies easements to install and maintain the pipelines. Summit has said it has voluntary easement agreements for about half of its proposed route.


Summit wants to hold a final hearing on its pipeline permit in March, according to its proposed schedule to the Iowa Utilities Board, which decides whether to issue a permit and grant eminent domain requests. The company seeks a final board order in June.





The state’s Office of Consumer Advocate is opposed to the proposed schedule, according to a recent filing.


“Given the scope of Summit’s proposed project and the novelty of carbon dioxide pipelines in Iowa, it is important to not rush to establish proceedings before Summit has prepared information necessary to evaluate the pipeline and its route,” Consumer Advocate Jennifer Easler wrote.


The trespassing charge​


Summit first sought to survey the Dickinson County land in March, said Jones, the farmer. He told the surveyor to leave and that he would seek trespassing charges if the company’s agents returned.


Jones and the landowner have rejected all mailed notices of the surveys sent by Summit, he said.


On Aug. 24, a team of five agents were preparing to survey the land when Jones’ father spotted them and approached them and called Jones, who was about 6 miles away. Jones said he drove to the site and passed four of the surveyors, whom he said were hastily departing in vehicles. He called the sheriff’s office.


“In my mind — if them four were fleeing like that — that tells me that they were wrong,” he said.


One remained: Stephen James Larsen, 28, of Arlington, S.D. Now he is facing a count of misdemeanor trespassing, which is punishable by a $354 fine.


Jones said Larsen declined to reveal the names of his fellow surveyors when a deputy sheriff asked.


Larsen’s trial has been delayed and is now set for Dec. 8, court records show.


“No laws were broken, and we fully expect these charges will be dismissed in the near future,” said Courtney Ryan, a Summit spokesperson. Ryan said the company followed the procedure for surveys as prescribed by state law and left the property when asked.


“To be 100 percent clear, there was no trespass involved in this situation,” she said.


The Dickinson County Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the criminal charge, did not respond to a request to comment for this article.


Summit has three pending lawsuits against other landowners who have refused to allow the company to survey their land in Northern Iowa, court records show. Iowa law allows for court-ordered injunctions to conduct the surveys without landowner interference.


The landowners in those pending cases — along with those who also have been sued by another CO2 pipeline company, Navigator CO2 Ventures — are arguing that the forced surveys infringe on their constitutionally protected property rights.


This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
 

MitchLL

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Kimberly Reynolds won't address this before an election, but I bet she's asking advisers what she should say and if it affects her biggest donors...IFB and Corn Growers Assn.
 
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cigaretteman

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I'm with you. That's just not the way things have been going.
It sounds like Iowa law gives the surveyors the right to trespass to do the surveys:

State law allows the land surveys — without the threat of a trespassing charge — after hazardous liquid pipeline companies hold informational meetings about the projects and send notice to landowners, ahead of the project being permitted by the Iowa Utilities Board. The surveys are meant to help determine the path and depth of the potential pipelines.
 
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MitchLL

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Anyone ever find it odd that our Governor avoids environmental issues when they arise?

We all know this project will proceed because this pipeline is tied to ethanol interests.
 
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Bank of Hawk

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Feb 24, 2007
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Eminent domain has turned into a government flex showing what individuals own isn’t truly theirs, at the end of the day, it’s the government’s land.
 

theiacowtipper

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Property rights should win.
I don’t see the harm to the property owner here. It’s only a survey. Hypothetical here, let’s say a future utility needed to run a line and they needed to find a route that was accessible and affordable. They aren’t building the line, only surveying for a potential line. The law says the landowner has to allow the survey.

I don’t see how the landowner is being harmed here.
 

joelbc1

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Sep 5, 2007
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you can’t always get what you want!
This case needs to go to the Supreme Court, where they can come up with a decision sequel to “Citizen’s United”!
Since e have phuqued the individual’s speech rights, we might as well phuque their property rights too....and the current Court has just the right make-up to accomplish this!
 

MitchLL

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Dec 26, 2018
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I don’t see the harm to the property owner here. It’s only a survey. Hypothetical here, let’s say a future utility needed to run a line and they needed to find a route that was accessible and affordable. They aren’t building the line, only surveying for a potential line. The law says the landowner has to allow the survey.

I don’t see how the landowner is being harmed here.
I think it's more an issue of "when", not "if" this pipeline becomes reality. Kind of like fighting wind turbines and solar farms.

The landowners know they're powerless and are just pissed.

But you are correct...there's no harm from a survey unless they're growing weed or circumventing CAFO runoff.
 
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Finance85

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Oct 22, 2003
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This case needs to go to the Supreme Court, where they can come up with a decision sequel to “Citizen’s United”!
Since e have phuqued the individual’s speech rights, we might as well phuque their property rights too....and the current Court has just the right make-up to accomplish this!
It's related to Kelo, not in any way Citizens United, not even a good analogy.

It's about a private company taking land via eminent domain. The pipeline isn't a public utility.

Surveyors can damage crops, and if the land is taken, cause lots of financial issues, even if there's compensation for the land itself.

Kelo was a horrible decision, by a liberal court.
 

theiacowtipper

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It's related to Kelo, not in any way Citizens United, not even a good analogy.

It's about a private company taking land via eminent domain. The pipeline isn't a public utility.

Surveyors can damage crops, and if the land is taken, cause lots of financial issues, even if there's compensation for the land itself.

Kelo was a horrible decision, by a liberal court.
Its not hard to believe that this court would overturn Kelo. Thomas dissented in the first place along with Scalia who is your basic role model,for the current conservative justices.

The question would be the standard for private use. Going to argue a hypothetical. Let’s say a mineral deposit was found that would be The basis for a wonderful human advancement. Perpetual energy or solar power that was 500% more efficient. There was one deposit and one owner of that deposit who refused to allow that mineral to be developed. Should one person be allowed to hinder that much human advancement?

One extreme is all private economic gain should be allowed to advance through eminent domain and the other is that nine should be. Is theee a standard in the middle?
 

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