Leroy Braun never thought he would be sued, because he didn’t want a pipeline running through the land he owns.
But as of Friday, Braun is one of many South Dakota landowners being taken to court by Summit Carbon Solutions, a CO2 carbon capture company.
Summit has initiated more than 80 lawsuits against landowners in Beadle, Brown, Codington, Edmunds, Hand, Kingsbury, Lake, McPherson and Spink counties, court records show. The majority of the pending cases were brought on April 24.
Joy Hohn, a landowner advocate, said she was alarmed to see so many landowners named in the court dockets.
“Basically, it should send a message to South Dakota. And [landowners] that this is the type of company we are going to be dealing with,” Hohn told Argus Leader. “Is this the type of company we want coming through South Dakota?”
More: Lincoln County carbon pipeline battle leads to recommendation of a CO2 committee
The Argus Leader obtained a copy of Summit’s verified petition from one of the landowners being sued. The documents show that Summit holds itself out as a public carrier and is petitioning the courts to allow the company to exercise its “privilege” of eminent domain.
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In mid-April, Summit started circulating letters to landowners who had not signed an easement agreement with the company. The letters were a “final offer” for landowners to partner with the company and indicated intent to impose eminent domain if an agreement couldn’t be reached.
Brian Jorde, a lawyer with Nebraska-based Domina Law Group, told the Argus Leader on Monday he predicts this is only the first batch of filings.
“It’s significant in that it shows how unpopular this project is and how poor this company has handled itself in dealing with people. And it is a significant amount that will, no doubt, be growing, not shrinking,” Jorde said.
In Braun’s case, he last let Summit’s engineers into his home on April 24. He had already cooperated with them throughout the last year to perform land surveys, but he has major reservations about letting them build near his home or his feedlot.
Read More: Company Files 80+ Eminent Domain Lawsuits Against Landowners Refusing Easement for Carbon Pipeline; More Filings Expected