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Iowa House panel advances bill to restrict eminent domain for carbon pipelines

Iowans living in or near the path of proposed carbon pipelines rallied at the Statehouse Tuesday in support of a bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for such projects.
Madeleine Charis King
Iowans living in or near the path of proposed carbon pipelines rallied at the Statehouse Tuesday in support of a bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for such projects.

As landowners from across Iowa gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday to protest proposed carbon capture pipelines, an Iowa House panel advanced a billthat would restrict the use of eminent domain for the pipelines.

Twenty-two Republican representatives sponsored the bill that would require owners of 90% of the land in a carbon pipeline’s path to agree to the pipeline before eminent domain could be used to access land from unwilling owners.

It would also prevent the state from issuing a permit for carbon pipeline construction until new federal safety standards are complete. And it would require interstate pipelines to get permits from all other states before using eminent domain in Iowa.

Karen Seipold farms in Mills County, near the path of Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed pipeline. She said the bill is needed to protect private property rights and people.

“Our rural EMS could never be able to take care of a breach in any of these pipelines and we’d be rendered…dead,” Seipold said. “We don’t have the support in rural Iowa to be able to protect us from this dangerous pipeline as it is.”

Jake Ketzner, a lobbyist for Summit Carbon Solutions, said stopping the pipelines wouldhurt the agriculture and ethanol industries.

“In Iowa over 60% of the corn produced in our state goes to ethanol production,” Ketzner said. “Can you imagine rural Iowa or our state in general with reduced ethanol plants and 60% of the demand for corn gone? It would be truly devastating to our schools, hospitals and roads, just from a tax perspective.”

But the Iowa Farm Bureau supports the bill. Lobbyist Kevin Kuhle said it includes three of the group’s policy priorities.

“Through our grassroots process last year, farmers across the state thoroughly discussed and set policy to ensure that property rights are adequately protected prior to approving large infrastructure projects, and after approval and construction is complete,” Kuhle said.

The bill would expand landowners’ and farm tenants’ ability to sue for pipeline-related damage to their land.

The proposal is also facing opposition from trade unions whose members would be involved in building the pipelines.

“We do believe that this is a possibility for good jobs,” said Felicia Hilton, a lobbyist for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. “We’re not saying that we support eminent domain. But we are concerned about codifying language…that would prevent future development.”

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, was the bill’s lead sponsor. He said he has always supported the ethanol industry.

“I have no problem with the pipeline,” he said. “I do have a problem with the blunt force of government being used to seize other people’s property for this project. That is my concern.”

It’s not clear if the bill has enough support to get passed by the House, even with House Speaker Pat Grassley signed on as a co-sponsor.

Gov. Kim Reynolds was asked about the bill last week. She said there is already a law in place that lays out how eminent domain can be used, and she said it’s possible there are ways to tweak it and make it better.

But Reynolds said there needs to be an honest conversation about what the consequences could be.

“Agriculture is critical to the state of Iowa,” Reynolds said. “It’s the foundation of our economy. And I’m going to continue to look for opportunities to add value to what we make and make sure that it’s sustainable.”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter