by Jared Strong
In an eleventh-hour ploy to give landowners more bargaining power on the way to proposed carbon pipelines, Iowa House Republicans on Wednesday converted a cosmetology bill into a one-year moratorium on using eminent domain for pipelines.
“The reason we’re addressing eminent domain today is that landowners who are potentially affected want certainty,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, chairman of the House State Government Committee. which narrowly moved the amended bill forward. “I’m not anti-pipeline.”
Kaufmann announced in January that he would not consider legislation this session that would affect current pipeline proposals that have been in the works for months and have resulted in dozens of deals with landowners to lay pipes on their properties. .
At issue are three potential projects this would build a total of nearly 2,000 miles of liquid carbon pipelines across the state to transport captured carbon emissions – mostly from ethanol plants – to other states to be sequestered underground.
Opponents of the projects say they do not serve a public purpose worthy of eminent domain and would irreparably damage farmland and pose a risk to public health.
A Senate bill that would have prevented private companies from using eminent domain to build pipelines on farmland failed to get help of a committee before a deadline last month to remain viable for debate. Lobbyists for Summit Carbon Solutions, one of the pipeline’s proponents, said at the time that the bill would kill their project and cost the company tens of millions of dollars it had already invested.
Summit released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying it had already signed voluntary easements with landowners for more than 100 miles of its route and was finalizing agreements for an additional 70 miles.
“They’re using heavy-handed politics, I would say,” Ted Junker, a northeast Iowa farmer, said during the hearing. “And the first thing that comes out of their mouth when you tell them, no, you’re not interested is, ‘Well, we’re going to get it by eminent domain anyway,’ and that’s their spiel. It’s their negotiation.
Junker was among three people who spoke at the hearing against pipeline eminent domain, which House Democrats said were too few to have meaningful public input.
“When you see a cosmetology bill and you haven’t had a chance as an audience to actually know what the amendment does, in terms of complete change, then that’s a problem,” said said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa. City, the leading member of the committee. “And that’s where I think we get suspect in terms of audiences, in terms of being able to be transparent.”
Democrats who spoke at the hearing said the rights of landowners should be considered, but they opposed the way Kaufmann was doing it.
“People back home who are affected by their land, they don’t care about the process,” Kaufmann replied. “They care about results.”
The committee voted 10 to 2 with one abstention to amend Senate File 2022 — which initially concerned where barbers can operate — to suspend eminent domain for pipelines until March 2023 and recommend it to the full House. Kaufmann indicated he was confident he would get a vote.
If the House approves the amended bill, it would still need Senate approval of the changes before it goes to the governor’s office.
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