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In my 24 years of legislative service and many more years of active involvement, I have never seen in Iowa such a massive power play as is orchestrated by elitist investors for Summit and Navigator. They see more than $20 billion of our tax dollars at their fingertips if only they could be granted authority to condemn several hundred miles of some of the richest farmland in the world. Many of the owners of which have held their land in the family for five or more generations.

This is the “Green New Deal” cross-wired brain spark of AOC, Pelosi and Schumer come to Iowa to roost in the capable brain of former Iowa ethanol nabob and current Brazilian ethanol mogul Bruce Rastetter. Ethanol has done much for Iowa but putting a billion gallons of Brazilian ethanol on the market puts Rastetter in direct competition with Iowa ethanol today.

As recently as ten years ago, Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit, was busy ridiculing global warming and its proponents. Today, he and the father of fracking, Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, supported by foreign and domestic investors, have launched a massive political machine designed to kick aside the property rights barriers protected by the Constitution, the oath to the Constitution of all legislators, the Republican Party of Iowa platform, respect for private property and common sense.   

Aside from the volatile risk of 2000 lbs per square inch pressure and the deadly effects of heavier-than-air CO2 gas, which by the way we use to euthanize hogs in our Iowa packing plants, the essential legal point remains. Property rights are sacrosanct. They have been protected in Western Civilization since John Locke wrote in 1689, “That no person shall be deprived of his life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

Property rights are natural rights, flowing from the laws of Nature and Nature’s God. They are protected in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to our Constitution.

Fifth Amendment: No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Fourteenth Amendment: nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

And for good measure, here is the language from the Republican Party of Iowa’s platform: We oppose federal or state government taking private property away from the owner for the use of another private party. Eminent domain should be used only for public use. It is worth noting the Texas Republican Party has just censured U.S. Representative Tony Gonzales for standing “in opposition to the core principles of the Republican Party of Texas.” Similar potential action will almost certainly be a discussion item in Iowa should our legislators fail to protect the property rights of Iowans.

Hundreds of Iowa landowners want only to be left in peace to live and farm their land. They have been hounded relentlessly by agents of Bruce Rastetter’s Summit company and threatened with condemnation of their land to facilitate hazardous high-pressure pipelines through their farms near their homes and families. Scores of county supervisors have been sued or threatened with lawsuits in intimidation tactics to discourage them from using their authority to refuse access to county property and to represent their constituent’s interests. It is reported that 44 of 52 affected Iowa counties have filed objections with the Iowa Utilities Board.

A number of bills have been introduced in the Iowa Legislature to protect property rights from the CO2 pipeline companies. So far, they all appear to be destined for extinction. Last year all bills protecting the property rights of Iowa landowners were killed in committee. When the legislature runs the clock out on a bill it’s called “slow-walking.” It has been clear to me as far back as New Year’s they would try the slow-walking tactic again.

Republicans have an informal rule, which is actually only a practice, that no bill comes to the floor unless it enjoys majority support from the Republican Caucus. All leadership has to say is, “We don’t have the votes.” Of course, they don’t. Top donors and influencers in Iowa Republican politics, including Terry Branstad, are the chosen investors in the biggest fleecing boondoggle this state has ever seen. They have greased the skids of the legislature for years. Why not be the darlings of the elitist beneficiaries of our tax dollars and avoid their wrath? The easiest path for beneficiary legislators is to dodge their responsibilities by refusing to allow a vote. The absolute minimum we can accept from our legislators is a clear definitive vote on a bill that would remove the Iowa Utilities Board’s authority to confer eminent domain in the cases of hazardous pipelines. They are operating on archaic decades-old authority that never contemplated high-pressure CO2 pipelines. The IUB is a three-person board. Under current law, if two of the three votes to grant Summit and Navigator eminent domain authority, the property rights of every landowner in their paths would be wiped out. That is definitively not due process!

Eminent domain should never be used to condemn private property for private sector profit. Even the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark property rights decision on Kelo v. New London (2005) was decided (erroneously) in the case of the government of the City of New London, Connecticut, a public entity, that confiscated private property, then handed it over to a private developer. In the case of the proposed Iowa pipelines, there is not even a pretense of a government entity as an intermediate agent. Kelo is not applicable to the benefit of the CO2 pipeline companies. IUB authority to grant eminent domain directly to private investors is itself unconstitutional.

I can’t imagine the completion of 2000 miles of pipelines without multiple lawsuits. I strongly believe the proposed use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines will prove to be unconstitutional. Private investors are poised to exercise eminent domain directly, without an intermediate government entity even as a fig leaf. All it takes is a slow walk of the property rights bills until the end of the session. Then only two unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats can order condemnation at the direction and will of a self-selected group of elitist investors based on one word in an archaic section of the Code of Iowa, “hazardous”. The statutory authority to order condemnation by the Iowa Utilities Board was passed decades ago during the national fear of, ironically, “Global Cooling.”

A majority affirmative vote in favor of eminent domain by the Iowa General Assembly and a governor’s signature should a requirement. If not, the public will never accept such a power play. Accountability by recorded vote is a minimum standard for a free people. A huge backlash will likely break out if the bills are slow-walked again. I urge Governor Reynolds and the Iowa General Assembly to push for a clear, for-or-against, vote on the use of eminent domain to condemn private property for use of a private business and specifically CO2 pipelines.

The top-down power brought to play in Iowa and the other states rivals anything I have seen in Washington, D.C. The arguments I am hearing in favor of the pipelines do not hold up or serve a public purpose, let alone the Constitutional requirement of public use.


Steve King
Fmr Chairman,
Constitution Committee
U.S. Congress

Author: Steve King



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