Earlier this year, in Iowa, pipeline surveyors were trespassing on properties without consent to aid in determining if a pipeline could be placed across the land, presumably for future planning purposes. The property owners refused the access to the surveyors, so the landowners were sued by Navigator CO2 Ventures, and another similar company Summit Carbon Solutions. A district court judge’s comments are resonating echoes of modern reparations for ancient practices, although these situations do tend to become convoluted to all parties but the land owners and the project managers, usually with the surveyor’s caught in the middle:
“State law that allows hazardous liquid pipeline companies access to private land for surveys is unconstitutional because it doesnâ€™t provide compensation for intangible damages suffered by landowners, a district court judge has ruled.
â€śThe damages resulting from a landownerâ€™s loss of his right to exclusive use of his property are subjective in the same way that pain and suffering damages are as it relates to a victim of a tortious injury,â€ť wrote Judge John Sandy, in his Wednesday ruling.
Because Iowa law does not compensate landowners for the duress they incur when they are forced to allow land surveyors on their properties without consent, it violates their constitutionally protected right to exclude people from their properties, Sandy said.
The ruling is the result of a lawsuit Navigator CO2 Ventures filed against landowner Martin Koenig in Clay County that sought a court-ordered injunction to conduct survey work on his land.
Those surveys will help determine the path and depth of Navigatorâ€™s proposed carbon dioxide pipeline, which would span more than 800 miles in Iowa. The pipeline would transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and other facilities for underground sequestration in Illinois or for other commercial purposes.
The lawsuit is one of four that have been filed by Navigator against landowners who have prevented the company from conducting the surveys. Another carbon dioxide pipeline company, Summit Carbon Solutions, has filed similar suits against several landowners.”
A related case came up in July as a district court dismissed a trespassing charge against a survey crew member, as he was the only one cited for trespassing:
The survey work for Summit Carbon Solutions will help determine the path and depth of the companyâ€™s proposed pipeline, which is set for a final permit hearing later this year.
“State law allows the surveys after pipeline companies hold informational meetings about their proposals and send notices to landowners and tenants via certified mail.
Judges have differed in recent months about whether the law is constitutional, and one of the rulings has been appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
District Associate Judge Shawna Ditsworth did not address the constitutionality of the law in her recent ruling that acquitted Larsen of the trespassing charge.
â€śThe State failed to bring forward any evidence that Mr. Larsen was told to previously leave the property or not to enter the property,â€ť Ditsworth wrote.
Instead, it was another group of presumed Summit surveyors who were told to leave in March 2022 by a tenant of the Dickinson County land, court records show.
A prosecutor argued that Larsen â€śhad to have had noticeâ€ť that he was not to go onto the land because of the previous encounter involving other people, but Ditsworth was unconvinced.
â€śAccordingly, the court concludes that a judgment of acquittal must be entered,â€ť she wrote.”