"I knew that I was going to fight this": Woodbury Co. woman fights against CO2 pipeline
It's a beautiful piece of farmland in Woodbury County and sits along the Plymouth County line and like many Iowa farms, it's a family heirloom.
"We love this farm. It's 151 acres. It has been in his family for many, many years. And our farm is five years shy of being a century farm." And now Vicki Hulse of Moville, Iowa is fighting to keep her and her husband's land out of the hands of a carbon capture pipeline.
"We have worked hard to pay for our land," Hulse told me during an interview at the Siouxland News studios. "We bought the farm from his dad's estate, and he worked two jobs. I work two jobs to pay for this farm. And we have two children that we want to hand the farm down to. And I'm fighting against eminent domain for private gain."
According to Cornell Law School, eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. Because of this, Heartland Greenway's Navigator CO2 pipeline has sent surveyors to each property where their pipeline will be. Hulse has twice refused to let them enter.
"I did not sign the letter for the easement. I did not sign anything," she said.
"I knew that I was going to fight this." This fight is personal for Hulse, not just because this pipeline would run through three of her four parcels of land, but because her husband William can't fight alongside her.
"My husband is a Vietnam veteran. He was exposed to Agent Orange and he's in the Iowa veterans home in Marshalltown," she explained, "and I am his voice and I am doing exactly what I feel he would want me to do fighting for your land, fight for our land. He fought for our country and I am fighting for our land."
And fighting she is. Hulse has twice denied surveyors access to her farmland. In response, Navigator is suing Hulse to gain access citing eminent domain. She has filed a countersuit seeking an injunction of her own. "They're a private company," she explained. "And so no private company should have the right to be able to claim eminent domain."
The Hulse's farmland is also part of the state's Conservation Reserve Program and this pipeline she says would harm everything that makes it beautiful. "The farmland is in the (Conservation Reserve Program), It's got birds and butterflies and deer and wildlife. And that's just part of it, you know, part of its crops. But you go out there and you just see all the wildlife and we want to leave the land better than we got it," she said. "And so to see a pipeline come through would just be heartbreaking."
And because of her husband's health, she's fighting alone. "I haven't even explained this to my husband. He has dementia," she said as she teared up. "I don't think he would even grasp any of this. And so I'm trying to make all these decisions." Her son and daughter are also fighting by her side as they will one day take over the farm.
There are over 130 other landowners also fighting against the Navigator Pipeline, plus the two other proposed pipelines, Summit Carbon Solutions and Wolf Carbon Solutions, that would run through Iowa. But Hulse is one of the few taking legal action against them now.
"Do you think there are any positives to this pipeline proposal? Big or small?" I asked her.
"No, no, there's no nothing. I can't think of a thing," she said passionately, "Can you?"
Hulse says this pipeline, should it go online, would impact not just the landowners whose property it runs through but the towns and communities nearby.
"I just want to make people aware. There are so many people that I talked to that they say well, that CO2 in the air, you're breathing it, but no, it is not the CO2 that is in your diet coke. It's not the CO2 that's in the canisters," she said. "This is 2,000 pounds of pressure in an eight-inch pipe that is liquefied. And if there is a leak of the earth an explosion, it is so dangerous."
She says this fight isn't just hers or even the landowners who have been targeted by Navigator and these other pipelines, but it's Iowa's fight.
"I wish you knew that if you let this pipeline go through and let them claim eminent domain for private gain," she said. "That is just a stepping stone for the first company to do that. That it will far reach anything else to happen for any other company to keep doing this? On and on and on. I mean, where would it stop?"
Hulse and the others who oppose the Navigator and the other two proposed CO2 pipelines have reached out to state leaders, going as far as marching in front of the Iowa Capitol building and sending meeting requests to Governor Reynolds with no response. She says getting more Iowans involved in the fight against these pipelines is key to stopping them, and getting involved is easy. "Do exactly what we're doing, become more aware. Just keep talking to your neighbors and fight the good fight."
Because this land... is Iowa.
"There's only so much land and that if you keep destroying the land, putting hazardous things in the land and putting these hazardous pipelines in, there's not going to be more land. This is it," she said.
"We have to preserve our land."What would your husband say if he could fight this fight with you?" I asked.
"He would be... He would be more vocal than I would be. He would be knocking on doors. He would be calling his legislators," she said of her husband. "And he had a big voice."
And now Vicki is that voice. For her husband and so many others in this fight against the pipelines.
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