116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Senate File 2160, a bill introduced to the Iowa Senate by Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, would have closed a loophole in Iowa’s current eminent domain laws and prevented private companies from using eminent domain for utility projects that don’t benefit the public good.
What was the bill about? It would stop the seizure of land for CO2 pipelines because these pipeline projects do not constitute a necessary public good. In fact, they are not even necessary for the ethanol industry.
While Summit lobbyists at the subcommittee hearing in Des Moines complained about the bill, both ADM and POET quietly registered their interest in it, and neither one opposed the bill. That’s because they have already developed their own carbon-reduction plans—plans that do not necessarily rely upon a carbon pipeline nor the force of eminent domain, although ADM has announced a pipeline project. Pipelines aren’t necessary for the ethanol industry—they’re only “necessary” in the eyes of Bruce Rastetter (CEO of Summit Agricultural Group) and Joe Gorder (CEO of Valero), because these men decided to invest in carbon capture instead of reducing ethanol’s CO2 emissions at the source. That’s a business decision, not a public good, and its dependence upon the condemnation of private land has led hundreds of Iowans to file objections with the IUB.
Indeed, at the subcommittee hearing for the bill on Feb. 15, one Senator remarked that never in his memory had he received so many comments from Iowans about a piece of legislation. The bill passed the subcommittee and was scheduled for a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee the next day.
But what happened then? When Republicans entered the committee room, committee chairman Sen. Jason Schultz announced—without a single word of explanation—that SF 2160 had been removed from the agenda.
That means, they killed the bill. (Friday Feb.18 was the funnel deadline for new legislation like SF 2160.)
Turns out, the issue of eminent domain for private corporations was so important to us— the hundreds of people who have written to their legislators about the use of eminent domain for these carbon pipelines — that senators refused to vote on it. Refused to even consider it.
They did not have the courage to do it.
To whom are our civil servants responsible? To corporate executives, to private investors, to donors from industry, to politicians at the top? It is a fact that former Gov. Terry Branstad is an employee of Summit Carbon Solutions. It is a fact that Governor Reynolds—who owes her position to Branstad—appointed leaders from the energy and bioindustry sectors (like Justin Kirchhoff, president of Summit Ag Investors) as well as key governmental influencers (like Geri Huser, chairwoman of the Iowa Utilities Board) to her task force on carbon sequestration.
Please, I ask that every neighbor look into what is happening here and write to your legislators to hold them accountable. The pipeline fight isn’t about NIMBY—it is about an America that forcibly condemns the land of honest, hard-working Iowans so that corporations and politicians, whose hunger for money and power is insatiable, can continue to take more and more for themselves.
Jessica Wiskus lives near Lisbon.