Opposition continues to build across Iowa against the proposed CO2 pipelines, especially since pipeline developers have demanded the ability to use eminent domain to force landowners to comply with construction. That’s right. The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) currently has the power to seize private property and impose easements for projects designed to benefit only a small handful of wealthy investors.
But it didn’t have to be that way. Our elected officials have had the opportunity over the past few weeks to stand with landowners and prevent abuses of eminent domain during the state legislative session. Instead of siding with landowners and against a taxpayer-funded project for private gain, Iowa’s political elite has once again chosen to side with agribusiness.
Senate Docket 2160, sponsored by Iowa Sen. Jeff Taylor (R-Sioux Center), could have prevented private companies from using eminent domain to force landowners to allow CO2 pipelines on their property. The bill was passed by a Senate commerce subcommittee in early February, but committee leaders ultimately refused to put the bill to a vote.
The bill enjoys broad public support. We have seen opposition to eminent domain for private gain in public hearings and meetings across the state. The people of Iowa clearly want their property rights protected and are demanding action from the state government. Landowners are also concerned about the potential hazards of CO2 pipelines, such as explosions or respiratory damage from leaking CO2 pipelines.
To understand why Iowa’s political leaders are closing ranks in favor of CO2 pipelines and against public opinion, it’s important to remember some of the people and money behind these massive pipelines.
Summit Carbon Solutions is furthest along in the process, having already applied for Eminent Domain Authority with the IUB. The Summit pipeline would cross 30 of Iowa’s 99 counties, pumping pressurized carbon dioxide collected from ethanol fermentation and other industries to North Dakota for long-term underground storage.
Summit funders are a who’s who of Iowa agribusinesses, such as:
Bruce Rastetter, a corporate pork producer and one of Iowa’s most connected Republican donors.
Terry Branstad, former governor of Iowa and ambassador to China during the Trump administration.
Jess Vilsack, son of former Iowa Democratic Governor and two-time Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, works for Summit’s legal team.
Jeff Boeyink, a former Branstad staffer and executive director of the Iowa Republican Party, is Summit’s lobbyist in Des Moines.
Summit has loudly stated its position on the eminent domain bill. “With this bill, this project comes to a halt,” Boeyink, Summit’s lobbyist, told the Iowa Capital Dispatch during the debate on Senate docket 2160. “It means all the tens of millions of dollars that have already been invested are wasted, and this project is going nowhere, the farmers are not getting any benefit, the ethanol plants we signed up for are finished. There is so an inherent unfairness in pulling the rug out and changing the rules after this development process has begun.”
In addition to Summit’s arrival in the state legislature, Summit last week announced a new $250 million investment from Continental Resources. Continental, led by billionaire oil tycoon Harold Hamm, is the largest shale gas producer in North Dakota and Montana. The agribusiness collusion with the fracking industry is a clear demonstration that Summit’s CO2 pipeline is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded program to provide a “respectful” public relations smokescreen. climate” to the ethanol and hydraulic fracturing industries.
Additionally, awarding eminent domain authority to a company like Summit would allow at-will access to private properties in 30 Iowa counties. Such an action would set a terrible precedent for the next company that sees an opportunity to make money by gaining access to Iowa farmland.
Even though Senate Docket 2160 stalled in committee, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds — and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) and House Speaker Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford ) – could defend landowners and end abuse of eminent domain. If they wanted to protect landowners and prevent massive taxpayer support for agribusiness and the fracking industry, they would have done it already.
The truth is, Reynolds and Republican heads of state want to keep their fingerprints off this issue for as long as possible because they know the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines is very unpopular with rural Iowans. . They know that this problem grows in size and importance as the project progresses. Yet they still choose to put corporate profits before people, and they make it clear that they stand with wealthy donors against ordinary Iowans.
I think it’s very possible that Governor Reynolds and the Republican leadership have made a political calculation here that could backfire on their November re-election hopes, especially with rural voters who want to protect property rights.
Barb Kalbach is a 4th generation family farmer, registered nurse, and board member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Barb can be reached at email@example.com.
Email Jennifer Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org
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