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Iowa lawmakers advance pipeline, drug death bills
Unclear if House CO2 pipeline bill would get a hearing in the Senate
DES MOINES — Iowa House lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday that would require carbon dioxide pipeline companies to clear high standards before being granted a permit in the state, keeping the bill on the table ahead of a key legislative deadline.
The measure was one of several that the House and Senate judiciary committees advanced Tuesday. Most bills need to be advanced out of a committee by Friday — the first legislative “funnel” — in order to be considered for the rest of the session.
House File 368, proposed by Rep. Steven Holt of Denison, House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford and a cadre of other Republicans, would stop CO2 pipeline companies from being granted eminent domain power unless they secure 90 percent of the miles of their proposed route through voluntary easements.
The Iowa Utilities Board would be barred from permitting new CO2 pipeline projects until the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration develops new rules that govern the pipelines. The bill also imposes requirements that projects be in line with local zoning rules and obtain permits in all other states along the route, along with adding stronger land restoration standards.
The bill passed the committee 12-7, with two abstaining. Two Republicans and five Democrats voted against the bill, while all but one yes vote were Republicans.
“I do not believe that the blunt force of government should be allowed to be used by private individuals seeking eminent domain to seize other people’s property for their own economic benefit,” Holt said in the committee.
Rep. Ross Wilburn, a Democrat from Ames and ranking member of the committee, said he opposed the bill, in part, because he was concerned it could lead to further erosion of eminent domain rights of local governments.
“My experience so far in the Legislature, there have been some topics that have been controversial, and there is some chipping away,” he said. “ … and the very next session we’ve added on.”
He also said he supported the possibility of the projects to create union jobs.
Activists who have been lobbying legislators to oppose the pipelines say the bill does not go far enough, but it is a significant improvement on the current permitting process. Pipeline companies oppose the bill, saying it unfairly singles out the industry and changes the rules as the companies are in the process of applying for permits.
Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 Ventures and Wolf Carbon Solutions have all applied for permits to construct a pipeline that runs through the state. Summit and Navigator have indicated an intent to use eminent domain for the projects, while Wolf said it will not.
A Senate panel on Monday voted down a bill that would have put weaker restrictions on utilities, including pipelines, and would have exempted the three projects already in the works. Senate leaders have not said whether the House bill — if passed — will get a hearing in the Senate.
Fentanyl sales, drug deaths
Lawmakers passed a bill that would heighten penalties for selling fentanyl and drug sales that result in a death, a key priority of Gov. Kim Reynolds and Attorney General Brenna Bird, both Republicans.
The bills, Senate Study Bill 1096 and House Study Bill 104, would heighten the criminal penalties for distributing a mixture containing fentanyl.
It would triple the sentence for selling or providing a drug that results in the death of another person, and double the sentence if the drug results in bodily injury. People who manufacture certain drugs in the presence of a minor or deliver to a minor would be sentenced to twice the term imposed by law.
It also expands the availability of drugs that reverse overdoses like naloxone.
The legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously, but Democrats in the House opposed it, saying they were concerned it would discourage people from seeking emergency care if an overdose occurs. The bill keeps in place legal protections for someone who reports an overdose if that person complies with law enforcement.
House lawmakers also advanced a bill that would exempt people under 18 and victims of human trafficking from being required to pay restitution if they are convicted of a felony that resulted in the death of another person.
The bill, House File 125, was inspired by the case of a Des Moines woman who killed a man who had trafficked and raped her. Her sentence was eased, but she was still required to pay restitution by Iowa law.
Prosecuting actions by police
County attorneys could not prosecute law enforcement officers whose actions result in a death if the state attorney general determines the use of force was justified under a bill the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced.
Senate File 256 amends a 2020 law that allows the attorney general to intervene in cases where a police use of force results in a death. Democrats opposed the bill, saying it cedes too much authority to the attorney general, and a jury trial is sufficient.
Iowa Attorney General Bird determined in January that three Des Moines police officers acted with legal justification in a fatal shooting of a 16-year-old.