A legal battle over a proposed carbon capture pipeline got underway Friday in Woodbury County.
Last week, we introduced you to Vicki Hulse as she prepared for a court battle to keep pipeline surveyors off of her farmland. Navigator wants to put its carbon capture pipeline through three of Hulse's four parcels of land outside of Moville near the Woodbury/Plymouth County line.
READ MORE: "I knew that I was going to fight this": Woodbury Co. woman fights against CO2 pipeline
Friday in Woodbury County District Court, Navigator presented its case for a temporary injunction to allow their team on her property regardless of Hulse's agreement to it or not. Navigator claims they have done everything required by law to access the property with or without Hulse's permission. Navigator says these surveys take less than two hours to complete and do no harm to the property, but Hulse's refusal is causing great harm to their company.
"We need to complete these surveys because we have to figure out our route. Our petition to the Iowa Utilities Board is being planned to be filed in the next month or so and we need to complete these activities," said Brian Rickert, who is representing Navigator. "The harm to Navigator is great because it slows our project down and it slows our ability to do the surveys we need, especially the ones that are weather dependent. You can't do searches for things that are on the ground when the ground is covered in snow or ice. We need to get out there and we need to do these now, but for the fact that the defendant is stopping that, we would have had these done already."
Navigator, which wants to build a $3 billion, 1,300-mile pipeline across 5 midwest states, claims this is nothing more than a tactic for Hulse and the other landowners who are keeping surveyors off of their land. For Hulse's team, this legal battle is not just a fight for the Hulse farm but for property rights for all Iowans.
"It's a fight for anyone who cares about property rights," said Brian Jorde, part of the law team representing Hulse. "And we are fighting for all future generations of Iowa. And we need to make sure that all unconstitutional statutes that take away property rights are voided, and changed and abolished."
Hulse's team argued in court that because their client did not pick up the registered letter sent by Navigator notifying her of the intent to survey the property, the company failed to serve notice which is required by law, instead saying the company can do the survey via an easement. They also argue that Iowa law states that pipeline companies must compensate landowners for rights of entry to their property.
Jorde told Siouxland News after the hearing that this is a very emotional time for his client, whose husband is in a veterans home in Iowa and doesn't know about this legal battle over their property that his wife currently facing. Hulse was not in court Friday for the hearing.
This hearing was over Navigator's lawsuit to gain access to the Hulse property, not Hulse's countersuit against Navigator which is challenging Iowa laws that permit the right of entry for companies to private land for things like surveys. That hearing will come at a later date. Currently, Hulse is asking for an injunction to keep Navigator off of the property until that constitutionality case has been decided.
District Judge Roger Sailer says he will issue his ruling on Navigator's case by the end of next week. Navigator has filed similar lawsuits against three other Iowa landowners in Clay and Butler counties who have also denied surveyors access to their property, two of those landowners have also filed similar constitutional challenges like Hulse's in Iowa court.
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