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Iowa environmentalists look to the Legislature to repeal eminent domain for proposed carbon pipeline

More than 100 farmers gathered in the rotunda of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines to protest three carbon pipelines proposed in Iowa.
Clay Masters
Iowa Public Radio
More than 100 farmers gathered in the rotunda of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines to protest three carbon pipelines proposed in Iowa.

Iowa environmentalists and landowners are advocating for Iowa lawmakers to address three proposed carbon pipelines and ban the use of eminent domain for the projects.

Iowa environmentalists and landowners say the current legislative session could be a pivotal one for whether three proposed carbon dioxide pipelines move forward.

Several bills reacting to three carbon pipeline proposals have been introduced in the Iowa Senate and House. One would require a pipeline company seeking eminent domain to disclose all of their investors. Another would require pipeline companies to get signed written permission from nearby landowners.

Emma Schmit, a senior organizer with Food and Water Watch Iowa said during a Wednesday news conference that the bills are an improvement, but most don’t go far enough to address many concerns.

“At the end of the day, we don't just want more information about these dangerous carbon projects,” Schmit said. “We don't want the projects at all.”

One of the bills would repeal the power of eminent domain authority for all hazardous liquid pipelines. Schmit said this bill “would address each and every concern that people have raised” about the proposed carbon pipelines.

“It’s bold legislation that would put an end to the threat of eminent domain for all these dangerous carbon carbon pipelines,” Schmit said.

Schmit told IPR News that because the bill is so broad, extending beyond carbon pipelines, it will likely be much harder to pass.

Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property for public gain. Jess Mazour, the conservation program coordinator for the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, said the proposed carbon pipelines are dangerous and don’t serve the public good.

“We have to say that eminent domain serves a purpose,” Mazour said. “It serves a purpose for things like water utilities, things that are truly in the public good that we all have access to. These projects simply do not.”

Three companies are proposing pipelines in Iowa and other Midwest states that would send ethanol facilities’ carbon dioxide emissions to North Dakota and Illinois to be permanently stored underground. The pipelines and the ethanol industry say they’ll help the ethanol industry reduce its carbon footprint and remain viable. Landowners say private companies shouldn’t be allowed to take private land. They’re also worried about the safety of the pipelines and potential impacts to farmland.

Copyright 2023 Iowa Public Radio. To see more, visit Iowa Public Radio.

Katie Peikes
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