FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, August 24, 2023
Contacts: Jess Mazour, 515-313-5253, email@example.com
Emma Schmit, 712-830-3748, firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Alleges Iowa Utilities Board Summit CO2 Pipeline Hearing is “Kangaroo Court”
Collusion between Summit Carbon and IUB calls democratic permit hearing process for controversial pipeline into question
Fort Dodge, IA – The first days of the Iowa Utilities Board’s (IUB) hearing on Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed CO2 pipeline permit application have been awash in discriminatory, unjustifiable decisions.
As parties to the proceeding and concerned citizens were entering the venue on Thursday, the third day of the hearing, they were told by security that the IUB had “changed the rules” of the hearing, and barred the use of cell phones and laptops by attendees at the hearing – an outrageous rule that severely hampers their ability to prepare themselves adequately for their testimony, and communicate with each other and members of the public not able to attend.
It’s unclear whether this new IUB rule equally applies to accredited and “citizen” journalists, but the move is a clear violation of open meetings rules and the rights of both impacted landowners and the public to a fair and transparent hearing process.
The security company hired by Iowa Utilities Board to provide security services during the months-long hearing process is OverWatch Enterprises, which also is contracted to provide services to permit applicant Summit Carbon Solutions. This conflict of interest has already been shown in the questionable activities of these security personnel at a public governmental hearing.
OverWatch security was discovered taking pictures of Sierra Club employee Jess Mazour and Bold Alliance employee Emma Schmit as they were driving out of the parking lot, and even got out of their car to take a picture of Emma Schmit’s license plate. It is unclear for what purpose the Iowa Utilities Board would have for taking pictures of the license plates of attendees of its public hearings.
“This is an intimidation tactic by Summit Carbon Solutions to try to deter our presence and participation in these proceedings,” said Emma Schmit, Bold Alliance. “The collusion between IUB and Summit Carbon Solutions is insulting, immoral, and indefensible. Our leaders need to take accountability for their oppressive corruption. Iowans deserve better.”
At the end of the hearing on Wednesday, landowners’ attorney Anna Ryon also found that her van, containing legal documents for her clients, had been illegally towed from the hearing venue parking lot, despite being parked legally. When asked, IUB staff denied any involvement in towing Ryon’s van, but was reportedly asked by venue staff if the person registered to the vehicle was in attendance at the meeting and replied that they were not – despite there being no “sign-in” sheets at the venue that would provide them with that information.
“For two years we have dealt with the unwarranted aggression of Summit Carbon Solutions,” said Jess Mazour, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator. “Iowans deserve better than a private company colluding with Iowa Utilities Board decision makers to steal farm land and place dangerous carbon pipelines near our homes and communities.”
The IUB has also made many decisions that put landowners and concerned citizens at a disadvantage during the public hearing process, and call into question the impartiality of the regulatory agency:
- Despite instituting an RSVP process, the IUB chose a venue too small to accommodate the number of interested parties, and in fact turned away attendees at the door on the first day who had taken off work and traveled hours to attend.
- Landowners and attorneys were required to wait outdoors during a heat advisory, while other parties to the hearing including Summit were provided entry through a back door.
- The IUB has instituted a “no standing” rule inside the hearing venue, hampering vested parties’ ability to interact with each other
- Just two days into the likely months-long hearing, IUB Chair Erik Helland has already complained several times about the length of the hearing, and the length of time that certain landowners who did not hire their own attorneys are being granted to air their concerns and answer questions from the approved intervenor parties.
- IUB Chair Erik Helland misled the public by stating during the hearing that landowner Paul Wacker had canceled his testimony because the hearing “was taking so long.” In fact, Mr. Wacker rescheduled his testimony with the IUB, because his air conditioning broke during a heat wave.
- On Wednesday, IUB Chair Eric Helland shortened the lunch break to 45 minutes, because the hearings were running behind schedule. IUB staff had lunch brought to the hearing venue for themselves, which allowed them plenty of time to eat. However, landowners and other parties are not allowed to bring food into the venue – and did not have enough time for their own lunch breaks.
- The IUB also has yet to acknowledge that their fast-tracked schedule will likely conflict with the upcoming Summit hearings in South Dakota (scheduled to begin Sept. 11), hamstringing lawyers and expert witnesses who are unable to be in two places at once.