Toppling Goliath: Pipeline opponents celebrate their victory
Opponents of the proposed Navigator Heartland Greenway CO2 pipeline filled the Small Towner Event Venue in downtown Macomb to celebrate Navigator’s decision to pull the plug on the project.
“We want to say thank you to everybody that took part in this and everybody that helped bring Goliath down,” said McDonough County farmer Steve Hess, who’s a member of Citizens Against Heartland Greenway Pipeline.
But Hess and the group’s president, John Feltham, also cautioned that while they won the battle, the war is not over.
“I’m a retired Marine Corps judge advocate. The enemy is not defeated until the enemy is dead or surrenders. This enemy has done neither so far,” said Feltham.
He is worried Navigator might try to come back or another company might try to build a CO2 pipeline through the region.
“We are not letting our guard down for one second,” he said.
He advised people against signing a voluntary right-of-way easement or a survey permission document for a sequestration easement. He said anyone contacted by a pipeline company should consult with an attorney.
Feltham said a lot of things came together to defeat the project. One of the most significant was landowner resistance.
“If you look at the right-of-way progress chart, almost two years after Navigator’s land agent first called me on the phone, it had only been able to negotiate a little less than 15% of the easements it would have needed in Illinois,” he said.
The organization’s secretary, Marilyn Shelley, said they kept plugging away in the battle against Navigator by attending meetings and rallying opposition from neighbors.
“At the beginning it was: it’s a done deal,” she said.
“No, it wasn’t a done deal. This is what happens when you get people together for one common cause.”
Background on the project
Navigator unveiled its plan about two years ago. The project would have reduced carbon emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from biofuels plants in five states – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
The CO2 would have been dehydrated and then compressed into a liquid sent through pipelines to a sequestration site in Christian County in central Illinois.
The pipeline would have run through 10 counties in this region: Adams, Brown, Hancock, Fulton, McDonough, Knox, and Schuyler in western Illinois and Des Moines, Lee, and Van Buren in southeastern Iowa.
Opponents argued that eminent domain should not be used to take land for a private company’s project.
“The bottom line is, for most farmers and landowners, our farms are for farming. They’re not a pipeline company’s job site,” said Feltham.
Opponents also cited health and safety concerns. The pressurized liquid converts into a gas if it’s released. That gas is heavier than air, so it displaces oxygen and asphyxiates anything in its path.
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