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Iowa House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Curb Eminent Domain

Today, the Iowa House of Representatives moved forward House File 565 on a vote of 73-20. 52 Republicans and 21 Democrats voted in favor of the measure, which now heads to the Senate for consideration in committee.

The Iowa House has overwhelmingly voted to require at least 90% of miles along proposed carbon pipeline routes be voluntarily secured before the government’s eminent domain authority could be used to seize the rest. It also would let farmers seek compensation years from now if crop yields are depressed in the area around a carbon pipeline. Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, is the bill’s lead sponsor. He says the pipelines have generated intense debate around the state and he calls pipeline opponents “freedom fighters.”

Some of those who voted for the measure lamented that it did not go far enough in protecting landowners who do not want the pipelines on their property. Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton, a bill backer, is blasting pipeline developers and the ethanol industry who’ve been calling for the bill’s defeat.

Republican Representative Mark Cisneros of Muscatine has the same concerns, but voted against the bill. Cisneros calls eminent domain theft.

Representative Chuck Isenhart, a Democrat from Dubuque, says if House members believe carbon pipelines have no public benefit, then the bill should have banned construction.

Representative Zach Dieken, a Republican from Granville, was a reluctant yes. He says the pipelines a cash cow for developers and he praises landowners who’ve refused to sign voluntary easements with pipeline developers.

Summit Carbon Solutions released a statement saying the carbon capture projects will play a critical role in ensuring the long term viability of the ethanol industry and the future of Iowa’s ag economy. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says the bill is a mistake that will reduce ethanol production and depress corn prices.

“This only happened because of a groundswell of opposition to CO2 pipelines and potential abuse of eminent domain by thousands of Iowans of all political stripes and ideologies,” said Devyn Hall, Farm and Environment Organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “Lawmakers would not have confronted Big Ag and the ethanol industry and their lobbying machine if they hadn’t heard widespread opposition since the day these pipelines were proposed.”

Provisions to require the issuance of federal guidelines and adherence to county ordinances were stripped of the bill by their Republican sponsors during the amendment process.

“Should this bill have been stronger? Yes, it most certainly should have been,” Hall continued. “But given the amount of time spent by pipeline lobbyists, and millions they spent badgering landowners and funding their own self-fulfilling studies based on propaganda, this is a win for everyday Iowans and shows that organized people can go toe-to-toe with organized money.”

House File 565 now heads to the Senate where it must be assigned to a committee and pass out of a committee by March 31 in order to stay alive under a self-imposed legislative deadline for bills not related to funding government operations. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is joining with other grassroots groups and Iowans calling on Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and Senate President Amy Sinclair to assign the bill to committee and debate it immediately.


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