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Bremer County supervisors set Feb. 13 hearing on pipeline ordinance

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Bremer County Board of Supervisors

The Bremer County Board of Supervisors meet every Monday in the courthouse.

WAVERLY — The Bremer County Board of Supervisors has a date for the final step involved in getting a local land use and zoning ordinance regulating carbon pipeline projects to the finish line.

Supervisors on Monday set Feb. 13 at 11 a.m. for the first of three readings on the 18-page measure, essentially establishing setbacks for the proposed project that’s poised to pass across its borders, as well as through other northeast Iowa counties – Butler, Floyd, Buchanan, Hardin, Franklin, Fayette and Delaware.

“This is aggressive, and I don’t know if we’re fixing anything, but we can’t be accused of not trying,” said Supervisor Dewey Hildebrandt.

The minimum separation distances proposed are:

  • City limits of an incorporated city—two miles.
  • Church, school, nursing home, long-term care facility, or hospital—half a mile.
  • Public park, conservation area, sensitive area, or public recreation area—half a mile.
  • Occupied structure—half a mile.
  • Animal feeding operation or facility – 1,000 feet.
  • Electric power generating facility with a nameplate capacity of 5 megawatts or more; an electric transmission line operating at 69 kilovolts or more; an electric transmission substation; a public drinking water treatment plant; or a public wastewater treatment plant – 1,000 feet.
  • Private water supply wells—200 feet.
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Navigator has applied for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit from the Iowa Utilities Board but has not yet received one. In the Iowa Senate, five bills were introduced last week that could severely restrict the ongoing plans of Navigator and two other companies planning to build pipelines in the state.

Hildebrandt noted before the vote setting the date that his “only contention” with the proposed ordinance was the hardship he felt they might be creating for residents with any “unintended consequences” impacting growth and development. Lindsey Lambert, county building and zoning administrator, replied by saying that’s why applicants can request variances, and noted the supervisors could make revisions to the ordinance down the road.

Local protesters organized and learn more about the proposed carbon pipelines at a meeting, Dec. 15, 2022, hosted by NGOs at Shell Rock Elementary School in Butler County. Credit: Andy Milone

Another possibility previously acknowledged by officials has been that the county will be putting itself at risk of being sued, as has been the case for Story and Shelby counties when they passed similar ordinances and were taken to court by Summit Carbon Solutions, one of the other pipeline companies.

Supervisor Ken Kammeyer noted after the meeting that the company reached out a few weeks ago with concerns, suggesting the setbacks are “not workable.” “But our job is to protect people’s safety,” he said.

Kammeyer also contended the proposed well setbacks were not far enough.

Protecting citizens was one reason Supervisor Corey Cerwinske pointed out the proposed ordinance was on the table as well as how it reinforces local control. “It clarifies our authority to dictate land use,” he said afterwards.

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To get a copy of the measure, contact the Bremer County Building & Zoning Office at (319) 352-0332.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended its adoption after the county mirrored the one passed in Shelby County with specialized counsel Timothy Whipple of Ahlers & Cooney.

Iowa Capital Dispatch contributed to this story.

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Cedar Falls, Waverly City Government Reporter

I've covered city government for The Courier since August 2021. I'm a Chatham, NJ native who graduated from Gettysburg College in 2018 and previously worked for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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