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Bill to limit eminent domain for carbon pipelines dies in Iowa Senate

 A message protesting carbon capture pipelines sits outside the Iowa Capitol.
Madeleine Charis King
A message protesting carbon capture pipelines sits outside the Iowa Capitol.

A House bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines appeared to be dead for the year Thursday after the Iowa Senate failed to advance it ahead of a legislative deadline.

The bill would ban the use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines unless 90% of the route is first acquired through voluntary land sales. It would also add protections for landowners if their land is damaged by a pipeline.

TheIowa House passed the bill last weekwith bipartisan support and opposition, but Senate Republicans never scheduled an initial subcommittee hearing.

There are ways that Statehouse leaders could bring the dead proposal up for a vote, but House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said the future of the bill is not clear.

“Obviously right now, it’s not looking like a very healthy future for it,” he said. “However, in the House, the members that I’ve talked to, we still feel very strongly about what we passed. And we really believe it was the right thing for us to do. So from our perspective, we still stand strong behind what we sent over there.”

Grassley declined to say whether the bill would become a key part of end-of-session negotiations with the Senate. He said Iowans who are interested in the bill should continue to contact their legislators.

In an interview with Radio Iowa, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Grimes, said he doesn’t think the conversation is over. But he said there is currently no consensus among Senate Republicans when it comes to restricting eminent domain use for the pipelines.

“There’s just a lot of different opinions,” Whitver said. “And if you look at the different people that are…interested in this bill, it’s very unique to have [the Iowa] Farm Bureau working with Sierra Club and [Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement] and Food and Water Watch on one side, versus the entire ag industry on the other side. There’s just as many opinions as there are members at this point.”

Whitver said this is a “hot issue” for those who want the pipelines to happen, and those who don’t.

Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said it’s frustrating to not be able to continue the conversation on an issuethat 78% of Iowans agree on.

“We’re going to not be able to hide from this issue,” she said. “We have to be able to tell voters where we stand, and that we’re looking to fix this. And for the Senate to punt it and do nothing is, frankly, it’s politics.”

Konfrst said the bill isn’t perfect, but she voted for it so the conversation could continue.

Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, declined to say whether or not he’d vote for the bill if it came up for a vote in the Senate.

“I think it’s egregious that [Senate Republicans] wouldn’t even schedule a subcommittee to hear from the public on it,” he said.

Wahls said if it came up for a vote in the Senate, he thinks there would be a high level of support for the bill.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter