Rep. Steven Holt. (IA Legislature photo)

The speaker of the Iowa House and 21 of his GOP colleagues have introduced a bill that could delay or possibly derail proposed carbon pipeline projects in Iowa. Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, is a lead sponsor.

“I am standing up for landowners that were there first,” Holt said late this morning during an online news conference.

If the bill becomes law, pipeline developers would have to get voluntary access to 90% of the pipeline route through Iowa before state utility regulators could grant the companies eminent domain authority to seize the rest. The bill also says the Iowa Utilities Board could not issue permits until new safety guidelines for carbon pipelines are issued by the federal government and developers secure permits from the neighboring states that the pipelines would pass through.

“All of these things, again, are designed to provide some protections for our property owners that are going through this situation,” Holt said. “Some of them do not want the pipeline to come through their property.”

Legislators began discussing new pipeline specific rules last year, but took no action. Pipeline backers have said it’s unfair to change regulations after project development is well underway. Holt said it’s not the concept of capturing carbon from ethanol plants that’s the issue, it’s the use of eminent domain to seize private property for these projects that’s the concern.

“Let’s talk about the landowners. Let’s talk about the Century Farms that have been there for over 100 years. Let’s talk about these property owners that don’t want this pipeline under their farms,” Holt said. “What about them? What about the rug being pulled out from under them?”

A Republican senator has introduced five different bills to address pipeline issues, but it’s unclear what the GOP majority in the Senate would support. The House bill has the backing of the top Republican in the House as well as the chairmen of House committees that deal with taxation and legal issues. Holt, who chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill would set up a process for landowners to file complaints with the Iowa Utilities Board about inadequate land restoration along the pipeline route.

“The bill expands damages that can be compensated for…This includes soil compaction, damage to soil or water conservation structures and damage to irrigation or drainage systems,” Holt said. “The bill further expands the claims a landowner can bring to include any identifiable loss due to pipeline activity and then finally it allows that a landowner may file a claim of relief in either small claims or district court.”

Holt told reporters the pipelines are a “major issue” in his district, which includes Shelby County. The Shelby County Board of Supervisors has established local zoning rules for the pipelines — and is being sued by Summit Carbon Solutions.

“It’s a huge issue for landowners that believe as I do that the use of eminent domain should be for highways, it should be for essential government services and infrastructure that meets the public good,” Holt said, “and this is a very different project that does not meet those requirements.” H

A spokesman for Summit Carbon Solutions says the company announced its carbon capture project two years ago and is hopeful that legislators will not change “the regulatory rules in the middle of the game.” Summit has announced it has secured voluntary easements along 67% of the proposed pipeline route through Iowa.

Radio Iowa