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Brian Jorde Comments on Clay County Carbon Pipeline Victory Over Iowa Land Survey Law

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Domina Law Group Managing Lawyer Brian Jorde was quoted by the Des Moines Register in an article profiling a recent victory he secured for a Clay County landowner who successfully challenged the constitutionality of an Iowa land survey law.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Jorde and our firm represented Martin Koenig, who was sued last year by Navigator CO2 Ventures after he repeatedly blocked the pipeline company from conducting a survey on his land near Sioux Rapids in northwest Iowa. Navigator is one of three companies looking to construct controversial carbon capture pipelines across the state.

In its lawsuit, Navigator sought an injunction to force Koenig to provide access for the survey. It argued that an Iowa state law allows pipeline companies to access private land and conduct surveys to determine the depth and direction of proposed pipelines, provided they hold a public hearing and provide 10 days’ notice to property owners.

Following Navigator’s lawsuit, Jorde and our firm filed a countersuit on behalf of Koenig challenging the constitutionality of that law.

On Wednesday, May 3, 2023, Clay County District Judge John Sandy sided with Koenig and agreed with our position that the law is unconstitutional. In his ruling, Judge Sandy stated that having a company’s surveyor enter property without consent for the purpose of determining whether a hazardous pipeline can be built is a "government taking without providing just compensation” and a violation of the Iowa and U.S. constitutions.

Speaking with the Des Moines Register, Jorde stated that he hopes judges in other similar pending cases in Iowa and South Dakota will consider the ruling in favor of his client when making their decisions. Like Koenig’s case, many of these pending suits challenge the constitutionality of survey laws and the use of eminent domain – a right typically reserved for the government and public use projects – by private companies looking to reap massive profits.

Jorde also commented on key issues in the latest ruling, including the Judge’s determination that the law was unconstitutional because the "statute allows for a per se taking without just compensation," stripping landowners of their right to exclude, one of their most treasured rights of property ownership, "by statutorily allowing pipeline companies to come onto private land to perform certain surveying operations."

Jorde also acknowledged that while the ruling was a victory, the lawsuit and others like aren’t designed to stop the pipelines, as state lawmakers can amend statutes in ways more favorable to pipeline companies looking to survey land. As he told the Register:

“A Legislature could say, ‘Well, we're gonna go ahead and allow it.' OK, that's fine, but just understand it's a taking and now we have to follow the process for compensation. We just want to make sure that the law ... protects landowners and doesn't violate their rights.”

You can read the full Des Moines Register article featuring quotes from Brian Jorde here.