State lawmakers must act quickly to protect landowners from the threat of eminent domain to build nearly 2,000 miles of liquid carbon pipelines across the state, opponents of the pipeline said Tuesday.
It was the 100th day of the legislative session. This means lawmakers can no longer bill their day-to-day expenses to the state — a financial incentive to wrap up the year.
But Republican leaders who have overwhelming control of the House and Senate are still deadlocked over Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to create state-funded private scholarships. Several other bills, including the entire state budget, are also at stake.
Proposals that would limit private companies’ use of eminent domain to build the pipelines surfaced intermittently throughout the legislative session and culminated in an amendment to the House budget bill that would delay the Iowa Utilities Board final action on pipeline proposals through February 2023.
The pipelines would transport captured carbon from ethanol plants and other agricultural facilities to other states, where it would be pumped into the ground. The projects are expected to yield billions of dollars in federal incentives intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, touted this prominent moratorium on the estate as a compromise with fellow lawmakers that would give landowners some breathing room in their negotiations with pipeline companies for property easements.
Of the three pipeline proposals, Summit Carbon Solutions’ is the most advanced. The IUB is set to establish a schedule that will conclude with a hearing on the company’s plan and eminent domain applications. Eminent domain allows the government to take private land for public purposes with compensation to the owner set by the government.
The company said it has reached agreements or is close to reaching agreements with landowners for about a quarter of the 680-mile stretch of the pipeline in the northwestern half of the state. Summit must submit a list of eminent domain requests before the IUB can schedule the license hearing.
“If these dangerous pipelines are allowed to use eminent domain, no landowner will be safe from its use by other private companies in the future,” Shelby County landowner Cynthia Hansen said on Tuesday. along the route of the Summit Pipeline.
She urged lawmakers to act on the issue this session before the Summit proposal has a chance to be approved. She said the proposed moratorium is not enough, a common refrain among opponents of the pipeline.
The IUB is expected to take up the Summit’s proposal early next year, which could give lawmakers little time to act in the next legislative session.
“The Legislature’s inaction this session is shameful,” said Emma Schmit, a western Iowa resident and organizer of Food & Water Watch, which is among environmental groups opposing pipelines. .
The House passed the budget bill that contains the moratorium on eminent domains nearly a month ago. The Senate has yet to consider the bill.
“It’s more a function of the ongoing disagreement between the House and the Senate over (school) vouchers and probably a whole bunch of other things,” Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, told Iowa Capital Dispatch. “The Republicans just don’t seem capable of running a railroad.”
Quirmbach was one of the loudest voices at the Statehouse in opposition to pipeline eminent domain and gave early support to a bill proposed by Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, that would have protected owners of pipelines. agricultural land reluctant against private projects.
This bill was introduced by a subcommittee, but was abruptly removed from the agenda of a committee hearing due to lack of support.
“I’m disappointed he didn’t have the support to leave the committee,” Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, chairman of the committee, said at the time.
Two Republican state lawmakers recently said that the political influence and wealth of Summit co-founder Bruce Rastetter, a major Republican donor, prevents their colleagues from acting in eminent domain.
Even the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, a powerful lobbyist for farmers, has remained mum on the issue. A spokesperson for the organization did not respond to multiple requests from Capital Dispatch to comment on the matter.
Summit lobbyists said Taylor’s bill would derail their project and cost the company tens of millions of dollars.
“There are people in powerful positions here in the Senate — Republicans in powerful positions — who are hostile to the idea of interrupting Bruce Rastetter’s plans,” Quirmbach said. “The strongest speakers (against pipelines) seem to be small landowners – farmers in particular – and they generally have strong support from the Republican Party. If the Republican Party supported this effort 100%, it would go through with it.
Many farmland owners who have publicly opposed pipelines worry about the damage their construction will cause. The pipeline companies have acknowledged the damage and the consequent decrease in agricultural production and are offering payments to compensate for the losses.
Other Republican proposals from this session leaned toward the preservation of farmland, especially high-quality cropland:
There was Senate Docket 2127, which allegedly restricted solar panel fields to less productive cropland and limited their locations based on their proximity to other solar fields and nearby landowners.
This bill was introduced by the Senate agriculture committee in February. Its sponsor, Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, chairman of the committee, said the bill’s purpose was to “show respect” to farmland, Iowa Public Radio reported.
This bill also had the potential to affect pending utility projects, including two proposed solar fields in Linn County on a combined total of more than 1,100 acres of farmland.
At least one person who lives near the projects has asked the IUB to delay final action on the projects until “the legislature has made a decision” on the bill.
“This is written to specifically address the best use of Iowa’s prime agricultural land in terms of setting land aside for large-scale solar installations,” Laura Myres, of Palo, wrote at the IUB in February.
The bill was again referred to the agriculture committee about a month ago.
Senate Study Bill 3134 sought to reduce the ability of counties and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to purchase agricultural land for public use.
The bill sets purchase price ceilings for public entities. The DNR, for example, would only be able to offer 60% of the value of high-quality cropland. The bill also limited state tax breaks for people who donate land for public use or sell it for less than it is worth.
The Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee voted in favor of the bill in February. About a month ago it was sent to committee.
It’s unclear if or when the Senate might consider the House budget bill that contains the moratorium on eminent domain.
“The Iowa Legislature has failed to take action on one of the most important issues facing Iowa – carbon pipelines,” Jess Mazour of the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter said Tuesday. “There is nothing good about these carbon pipelines. It is a risk for us and a reward for them.