Iowa House looks to limit eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines. How it would work:

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Companies building carbon capture pipelines would have to reach voluntary deals for 90% of the land on their route before they could seek to use eminent domain, under new legislation proposed by House Republican leaders.

The bill, which is sponsored by 22 Republicans, including House Speaker Pat Grassley, is the Iowa Legislature's most serious effort to respond to the concerns of farmers and other landowners who fear they could be pressured to sell their property to three companies seeking to build pipelines across the state.

"It’s very important to those of us who signed onto this that we try to protect landowners," Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, told reporters Thursday. "Our issue is not with the pipeline but with the use of eminent domain and what is the appropriate use for eminent domain."

Who's trying to build carbon capture pipelines in Iowa?

Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 Ventures and Wolf Carbon Solutions have proposed building pipelines across Iowa and neighboring states. They would transport liquefied carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol and fertilizer plants and other industrial facilities to deep underground sequestration sites in North Dakota and Illinois.

If the companies can show a public need for the pipelines, the Iowa Utilities Board could grant them the power to force unwilling landowners to sell access to their property for the projects.

Summit and Navigator have filed petitions seeking permits to build the pipelines, but regulators haven't held public hearings on the permit requests yet.

More:Iowa would lose $10.3B a year in ethanol production without pipelines, report says

Opponents have raised alarms about the projects' potential use of eminent domain and have cited concerns about pipeline safety and the effect the pipelines' construction could have on field drainage systems, soil and crop yields.

What would the House bill on eminent domain do?

The bill contains a wide range of protections for landowners and requirements that companies building hazardous liquid pipelines must meet before they could be allowed to use eminent domain.

In addition to the 90% threshold, the bill would place a moratorium on the Iowa Utilities Board's authority to issue permits for carbon pipeline construction until the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration establishes safety guidelines for the construction of carbon capture pipelines, which Holt said is expected in the next 12 to 18 months.

It would also require multistate pipeline projects to acquire all necessary permits in other states before they could attempt to use eminent domain in Iowa. And they must be in compliance with local zoning ordinances to receive a construction permit.

Both Summit and Navigator have sued the Story County supervisors after they adopted an ordinance requiring increased distances between pipelines and homes, churches and schools. Summit filed a similar lawsuit against Shelby County in western Iowa, which adopted similar protections.

More:Lawmakers look to curb eminent domain powers for carbon capture pipeline builders

The bill would also grant landowners the right to sue companies in small claims or district court over damages caused by pipelines to things like drainage, soil compaction and irrigation systems.

Will the Iowa Legislature pass an eminent domain bill this year?

The House legislation joins about a dozen other bills in the Iowa Legislature aimed at protecting landowners from eminent domain, several of which were introduced by Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center.

But the Senate bills have not received hearings, and Senate Republican leaders have declined to act on the issue in the past.

Last year, House lawmakers passed a bill to delay any eminent domain proceedings for one year. But the Senate stripped the provision from the budget that lawmakers ultimately passed.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Grimes, declined to comment on the House bill Thursday.

Holt said he's "very optimistic" about getting the legislation to the floor of the Iowa House, given the interest from his colleagues.

"I’m focusing on what I can get done in the House, and I can’t speak for the governor or the Senate and what action they might take," he said.

Where does Gov. Kim Reynolds stand on using eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines?

Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Thursday that Iowa's existing law on eminent domain takes landowners' interests into account if the process has to be used. But she said, "I'm sure there's areas where we can tweak it and make it better."

She also emphasized the importance of agriculture to Iowa's economy and said that has to be part of the conversation around the pipelines.

"Agriculture is critical to the state of Iowa," she said. "It’s the foundation of our economy, and I’m going to continue to look for the opportunity to add value to what we make and make sure that it’s sustainable and that they can continue to operate and feed the world."

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said Democrats haven't had a chance to look at the legislation, but they want to make sure any pipelines are safe and strike a balance between being environmentally friendly while also supporting jobs.

"We're going to want to look at any piece of legislation to see that landowner rights are protected, to make sure that people have a say in how their land is used and that if we're using eminent domain, public good is a part of that conversation," she said.

Are pipeline opponents pleased with the House bill?

The House bill does not go as far as some opponents would like.

"There is no acceptable way to take peoples’ land for a carbon capture scam," said Emma Schmit, a senior organizer with Food and Water Watch. "The Iowa Legislature must pass a full ban on eminent domain for hazardous carbon pipelines."

Holt said he personally doesn't support the use of eminent domain for the carbon capture pipelines, but he went with the 90% voluntary easement requirement because it's endorsed by the Iowa Farm Bureau and has support from other Republicans.

"We’re trying to get protections in place that we believe we can get the support for and get it to the governor’s desk," he said. "But when it comes to private economic development projects, in principle I do not believe that eminent domain should be allowed to be used for a private economic development project."

What are pipeline companies doing to work with landowners?

The three pipeline companies have said they are working to reach voluntary agreements with Iowa landowners.

Jesse Harris, a spokesperson for Summit, said the company has secured voluntary easements for about two-thirds of its proposed route through Iowa.

"This overwhelming level of support is a clear reflection that landowners view the project as critical to supporting the state's most important industries — ethanol and agriculture," Harris said in a statement Thursday.

He pointed to a report from Decision Innovation Solutions and funded by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, which said that without the three pipelines, Iowa's ethanol industry would lose about $10.3 billion annually to neighboring states in the next five or 10 years.

Nick Noppinger, senior vice president of corporate development at Wolf Carbon Solutions, said the company has a strong track record of respecting landowners.

"Our experienced team has never exercised eminent domain in their collective careers over decades of developing and constructing projects, and we don’t intend to start now," he said in a statement.

Andy Bates, a spokesperson for Navigator, said the company takes the permit application process seriously.

"Iowa has one of the most robust, thorough processes already in place that guides the development of pipeline infrastructure, and we don’t see changes needed to that process," he said in a statement. "We are committed to working collaboratively with landowners and negotiating in good faith to secure as much of the project footprint in a voluntary fashion as possible."

Des Moines Register reporters Katie Akin and Donnelle Eller contributed to this article.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: House GOP lawmakers seek to limit eminent domain for carbon pipelines