A key lawmaker is drafting a plan to require that a large percentage of landowners agree to a carbon pipeline project before state regulators could approve seizure of the remaining property through eminent domain.
“I’m pro-landowner,” said Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who is chairman of the House State Government Committee. “I’m pro you deciding what to do with your farm or your business or your home unless you’re doing something stupid like commuting a crime or not paying your taxes and the process has worked so far, but someday it’s not.”
In 2006, the Iowa legislature overrode Governor Vilsack’s veto of a law that has limited the authority of local governments to seize private property for economic development projects. Kaufmann said current state law requires transmission lines and pipelines that ship electricity or products through the state to sign up a majority of landowners before the Iowa Utilities Board can grant eminent domain to seize the rest.
“Dakota Access went through. They had like 95% willing participants, so our eminent domain laws aren’t stopping these things,” Kaufmann said. “They’re holding companies accountable to the landowner.”
But Kaufmann said the two proposed pipelines aren’t just pass through operations like Dakota Access. Each would transport carbon emissions from Iowa ethanol plants, so he told reporters the current law should be changed so it applies to pipelines with terminals inside the state’s borders.
“The current code does not make you reach a certain agreeable percentage before you could ask for it, so feasibly you could do a pipeline with 10% landowner approval and ask for eminent domain,” Kaufmann said. “Now I’m not insinuating that the current Utilities Board would grant it, but the fact that it’s permissible to ask is a problem for me.”
Kaufmann said he’s currently aiming to force pipelines to have contracts with 70-75% of landowners before state regulators could grant permission to get the rest of the property through eminent domain. Kaufman said he’s researching pipeline-related laws in other states and discussing the issue with stakeholders in the two proposed carbon pipelines that would cut through Iowa.