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Bill to limit use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines in Iowa advances

In a public hearing, several landowners rejected the idea that carbon pipelines will provide a public service. The subcommittee allowed the bill to move forward although some senators said they thought the bill was flawed and would need to be amended.

A sign along an Iowa road advocating no Navigator pipeline.
A sign along a Linn County, Iowa, road advocates for no Navigator carbon capture pipeline.
Contributed / Jessica Wiskus
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DES MOINES, Iowa — After a parade of testimony from landowners opposed to carbon capture pipelines crossing their property, a subcommittee of the Iowa Senate will allow a bill to prevent the use of eminent domain for such pipelines to advance.

However, two of the three state senators on the subcommittee that allowed the bill to move forward said they thought the bill was flawed and would need to be amended.

In a public hearing, several landowners rejected the idea that the carbon pipelines will provide a public service.

"I get nothing but torn up piece of land, broken tiles, possibly canceled CRP contracts," said Jason Howard, a Palo Alto County land owner. "I see this as a disruption to my family's livelihood."

Howard said about a mile of Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would run through one of his fields. Summit is one of three companies that have proposed building pipelines in Iowa to capture carbon from ethanol plants as a way to improve the carbon score of those plants, cashing in on federal tax credits for carbon storage.

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The bill, SF 2160, would force pipeline companies to get 100% voluntary easements for a project to move forward. The bill was forwarded by Republican Sen. Jeff Taylor, who said he has heard from his constituents in northwest Iowa concerned about being forced to allow a pipeline to run through their property through the use of eminent domain. He said he is in favor upholding the conservative principles of landowner rights.

He said the bill was born out of "age old respect for private property, literal interpretations of our constitutions and the principle that profit for the few should not outweigh the rights of the many."

Iowa state Sen. Jeff Taylor
Iowa state Sen. Jeff Taylor

So far, Summit Carbon Solutions is the only company to file for a permit with the Iowa Utilities Board. Under the current rules, an approved permit would automatically come with the authority to use eminent domain to gain access to private property.

Taylor's bill would take away that authority on July 1, 2022, before the Iowa Utilities Board would have the time to approve the permit.

Jeffrey Boeyink, a lobbyist for Summit, said during the public hearing that with the bill, the $4.5 billion project covering five states"stops dead in its tracks."

He said Iowa cannot "pull the rug out" by changing the rules midway through the game and warned that it could limit future public service projects.

Republican Sen. Craig Williams, a member of the subcommittee, responded by saying, "Imagine owning a piece of property for 100 years and then having the rules change."

Williams also challenged Boeyink's comments about the number of voluntary easements in the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Williams said he was told by the Iowa Utilities Board that eminent domain was used on about 10% of the the property for that crude oil pipeline. Boeyink, was also was a lobbyist for Dakota Access, had said during the hearing that the eminent domain figure was only 2%. Boeyink explained the 2% figure by saying,"Let's face it, at the end, when you get the permit, it's actually in your benefit to settle with us than have your property taken through eminent domain, you get more money."

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Despite the difference in the figures, Boeyink said a "super majority" signed up for volunteer easements and a small percentage of holdouts should not be allowed to stop a pipeline project.

At the end of the hearing, Williams expressed reservations about "unintended consequences" of the bill and that it may need some modifications but did allow it to move on the Commerce Committee, which meets Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m.

Summit's pipeline would connect ethanol plants in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, sending liquid carbon dioxide to western North Dakota for underground storage. The Navigator and Wolfe Carbon Solutions projects would store carbon in Illinois.

Related Topics: POLICYAGRIBUSINESS
Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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