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Support carbon pipeline restrictions in Iowa
On Wednesday afternoon, the Iowa House passed legislation restricting the use of eminent domain to take land easements for two planned carbon capture pipelines. The bill passed by a large, bipartisan margin and is seen as a victory for landowners resisting efforts to take their land for the pipelines.
The bill would require that pipeline firms Naviga CO2 Ventures and Summit Carbon Solutions obtain 90 percent of the land they need for pipeline routes voluntarily before eminent domain power could be used. Unfortunately, lawmakers removed provisions of the original bill that would halt projects until new federal pipeline safety rules have been adopted and require projects to adhere to local pipeline ordinances.
Still, on balance, the legislation is far better than nothing. It does more to protect landowner rights than current law, which allows the Iowa Utilities Board to grant unlimited eminent domain power to pipeline developers. We urge the Iowa Senate to take up the bill and send it to Gov. Kim Reynolds.
We concede that’s a tall order. The Senate has resisted even the most modest pipeline restrictions. But we believe Iowans at least deserve an up-or-down vote to see where their senators stand.
We also understand pro-pipelined forces are politically powerful. For example, Summit Carbon Solutions’ backers include Republican megadonor Bruce Rastetter and former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. The company’s general counsel is Jess Vilsack, son of former governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The pipelines are also backed strongly by the ethanol industry. The pipelines will carry sequestered carbon from ethanol plants to underground storage sites. Ethanol backers hope the captured carbon will improve the corn-based fuel’s image as a green, renewable energy source that will be more marketable in world determined to reduce the effects of climate change. Without the pipelines, renewable fuel allies claim the ethanol industry in Iowa would be decimated.
But ethanol’s long-term future as a motor fuel is hazy as electric vehicle technology improves and becomes more reliable and affordable. The carbon pipelines would be eligible for billions of dollars in federal tax credits. It’s yet another governmental effort to prop up ethanol. And some environmental groups question carbon capture’s effectiveness in slowing climate change.
Upholding Iowa’s long tradition of defending property rights is, in our view, more important than any short-term financial gains for a single industry. It’s worth noting that the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation supports the House bill.
The pipeline we really need is one carrying political courage to the Senate. Maybe then Senate GOP leaders would stand on principle and bring the pipeline bill up for a vote.
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