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Summit Hearing in Iowa to be Extended Into November

Testimony for Summit Carbon Solutions’ evidentiary hearing for a pipeline permit in Iowa isn’t expected to conclude this week, and it might not resume until November.

“We anticipate issuing an order early next week, laying out being here in November for a very limited amount of time,” Erik Helland, chairperson of the Iowa Utilities Board, said Wednesday.

The hearing for Summit’s proposed carbon dioxide pipeline system is in its seventh week of testimony. The board had initially intended to conclude after six weeks and reserved a venue in Fort Dodge for that time.

Last week, when it became clear it would not finish in that time frame, Helland announced the board had extended the reservation and hoped to conclude this week.

But an attorney for most of the remaining landowners who are set to testify said the relatively short notice of the reservation extension has made finishing this week impossible.

Many of the landowners are farmers, and corn and soybean harvesting began in recent weeks. Two of the farmers who testified Wednesday said they were able to make time for the hearing because widespread rain Tuesday night caused them to pause their work. One testified remotely Wednesday via video conference from the cab of a tractor.

Helland and Summit attorney Bret Dublinske have blamed delays on excessive and duplicative questioning and testimony of witnesses, whose purpose at the hearing is to be available for cross examination. Summit has alleged that pipeline opponents want to delay the company’s permit processes as much as possible to decrease the likelihood of the project’s success.

Helland has repeatedly asked attorneys who are participating in the hearing to avoid “friendly” cross examination, which can be used to elongate testimony by eliciting long, extraneous responses.

“The reality is we have sat through hours of friendly cross (examination), repeating pre-filed testimony,” Helland said Wednesday. “We have made many accommodations, including moving landowners last. We have admitted everything into the record, even exhibits that were filed late and improperly. As such, we are behind where we had anticipated being at this point.”

Dublinske asked Wednesday to conclude the hearing yet this month, but schedule conflicts and a lack of availability of the hearing venue in Fort Dodge have made that unlikely. Next week, the IUB is set to hold a four-day evidentiary hearing for a wind and solar project proposed by MidAmerican Energy.

Helland said the first full week of November is likely the earliest the hearing could resume. That is a month away.

Summit has said it wants to have an IUB decision on its permit request by the end of the year. It’s unclear if the hearing delay will affect that timeline.

The company has suffered setbacks in North and South Dakota, where utility regulators rejected its pipeline permit requests. North Dakota has agreed to reconsider the proposal, which will be altered. In South Dakota, Summit plans to adjust its route and reapply.

Its five-state pipeline system would transport captured carbon dioxide from more than 30 ethanol plants to North Dakota for underground sequestration. The project would require the use of eminent domain to force land easements for about a quarter of its route in Iowa, which spans more than 680 miles.

At least one landowner is set to testify on Thursday before the hearing pauses.

Source : Iowa Capital Dispatch