New legislation that attempts to delay by 10 months the threat of eminent domain to landowners who don’t want to allow liquid carbon pipelines on their properties does little to help their overall fight, two Republican lawmakers have said.
They said the political clout and wealth of at least one of the pipelines backers – Bruce Rastetter, whose Summit Carbon Solutions filed the first of three planned pipeline permit applications with Iowa Utilities Board – explain why the Republican-controlled legislature is unlikely to give meaningful relief to these landowners.
“How much money did Bruce Rastetter give you?” Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Birmingham, encouraged residents to ask their lawmakers. “There are a lot of people bending over for money. They bend over so much sometimes that I’m surprised they can still walk.
The idea that Summit is buying votes is “misinformation,” said company spokesman Jesse Harris. “We will continue to focus our time on meetings with landowners, stakeholders and more,” Harris said.
Rastetter is an agribusiness entrepreneur who has found success in the pork production and biofuels industries. He is one of Iowa’s top political financiers and a frequent punching bag for opponents of the pipeline.
Shipley’s remarks capped a more than two-hour forum on Tuesday in the State Capitol Rotunda in which scores of opponents of the pipeline took turns publicly voicing concerns about the use of eminent domain for projects, the damage their land would suffer and the health risks associated with potential pipeline leaks.
Many in the gathering of over 100 people at one point chanted in unison, “No eminent domain for private gain!”
There are three potential projects that would lay a total of nearly 2,000 miles of pipeline across the state to transport captured carbon emissions – most often from ethanol plants – to Illinois and North Dakota to be pumped deep into the ground. The goal is to raise billions of dollars in federal incentives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The state’s latest proposed legislation — inserted into a House budget bill last week — would effectively bar any decisions by the utility board on pipeline eminent domain until February 2023.
This amendment — proposed by Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton — came at the end of a months-long winding legislative road that began in January with Kaufmann himself issuing a public statement that he would not consider not bills that would restrict eminent domain for pipelines.
“Now is not the right time to make changes to the current process when two carbon capture pipeline projects have already recruited hundreds of voluntary landowners and continue to negotiate voluntary easements,” Kaufmann told AFP. era.
Summit and Navigator CO2 Ventures had already held most of their series of public meetings required to notify potentially affected landowners and others of their plans. Summit lobbyists later said the company had spent tens of millions of dollars on their project that would be lost if new legislation blocked it.
In February, a bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, that would have prevented private companies from using eminent domain to build carbon pipelines on farmland was quickly approved by a subcommittee and was to be heard in full committee until it was abruptly removed from consideration. Taylor had conceded that the bill faced an “uphill battle” due to a lack of support among other senators.
Then, about two weeks ago, Kaufmann reversed course and, along with his colleagues on the House State Government Committee, rewrote an unrelated cosmetology bill that was still eligible for consideration this session. legislation into a bill that would impose a moratorium on eminent domain until March 2023. He said it is important that landowners can negotiate with pipeline companies for voluntary easements without the imminent threat of eminent domain.
The latest proposal that is part of a budget bill was passed by the House last week. He reduced the moratorium by one month.
An irresponsible proposal?
Taylor, who attended Tuesday’s event on Capitol Hill, said he doubted the break would have any tangible effect on negotiations, or delay project timelines.
“It doesn’t remove the harassment that takes place by land agents because they pester you again and again and again,” he said of the companies’ efforts to get planning permission. “There are no restrictions on that. This is all going to continue, I’m afraid, so you have no protection that way either.
A landowner who spoke on Tuesday, George Cummins, a retired Floyd County agronomist, said the proposed moratorium was simply to appease voters until after the next November election.
Others have made moving calls to stop pipeline companies from carving up their farmlands that have been passed down from generation to generation. Kathy Stockdale of Hardin County said she and some of her neighbors were trying to push back two of the projects. She said the Summit and Navigator pipelines would both cross their lands.
“The latest bill does nothing for us landowners,” Stockdale said. “The threat of eminent domain is still there.”
Summit, in a preemptive statement on the forum, said it had secured easements for more than 100 miles of its pipeline and was working to finalize another 70 miles. That’s about a quarter of his journey through Iowa.
These agreements are “a clear indication that the current system is working and working well,” the company said.
To approve projects as eminent domain, the IUB must conclude that they serve a public good. Taylor said no.
“It’s not for a public park. It’s not for a public library,” he said. “It’s not for a public school or a public road.”
Taylor said the power to grant eminent domain should be removed from the IUB and the moratorium should be extended to allow lawmakers to take up the issue again next year before any projects can be approved.