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All four legislators who attended a pre-session forum in Le Mars last week seemed to be uneasy at the prospect of the Iowa Utilities Board granting eminent domain for the CO2 pipeline projects in Iowa.

Representative Tom Jeneary said no private for-profit project should be allowed to use eminent domain for anything.

“If we allow that to happen, where do you stop,” he asked. “You open pandora’s box. What would prevent somebody from building an apartment complex in your pasture? I just am not for that at all.”

Senator Jeff Taylor said he has five bills ready to address this issue and is working on a sixth. The lawmakers were asked if they believed the project was a done a deal or if it is worth the fight.

“It’s always worth the fight,” Taylor said. “Even if the odds are stacked against you, it’s always worth the fight. There’s a lot of money behind the pipeline projects. Bruce Rastetter is a big donor to the GOP and has been for decades. That’s a problem for Republicans.”

In addition to Rastetter’s money, his public spokesman for the project is former Gov. Terry Branstad.

“That’s a problem also,” Taylor said. “You’ve got heavyweights on the Republican side pushing for Summit pipelines and to resist any kind of restrictions on what the Utilities Board can do on eminent domain.”

A majority of counties affected have had their supervisors come out against the use of eminent domain for the projects. But some lawmakers at the state level believe their authority trumps that of the county supervisors.

Taylor said his fear is that eminent domain will be granted to one or both of the companies in the next few months if the legislature isn’t able to stop it. He said he was grateful so many county boards have contacted the Utilities Board with their objections and said anything individual can do to keep pushing against the “abuse” of eminent domain is what he encourages.

A bill offered by Taylor earlier this year would have removed the board’s authority to use eminent domain for a private project, but that “stirred up a hornet’s nest and leadership was not happy” with the bill, he said.

“It lasted for about a week,” Taylor added. “And then it was taken out behind the barn and shot. So, I wasn’t surprised.”

Taylor predicted that if the bill would have been allowed to proceed, it would have passed the Senate. However, it never received a committee vote.

“The leader gets to decide,” Taylor said. “I don’t blame him. He’s got his own constraints. There’s the Governor. There are the donors — all of these other factors. It’s not a personal thing, but I announced in caucus that I’ve got these bills coming forward and I was impressed. There were at least six or seven other Senators who brought this issue up. Last year at this time there were zero comments about it. I think the dynamic to some degree has changed and they’re not able to sweep it under the rug.

“The political reality is big money is behind it. The Republican Party, even though we’re against eminent domain for private companies — that’s in our platform we just reaffirmed this past summer, ironically we passed that resolution while we were at the state fairgrounds in the Rastetter Building.”

Taylor joked he thought Rastetter would speak against the platform plank, but likely did not because he “didn’t need to.” Instead, Taylor said the grassroots has to fight it.

Jeneary predicted there is a “very strong chance” of stopping the use of eminent domain for private projects in the Iowa House.


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