For weeks I have heard from Iowans across the state concerned about their private property being used for a pipeline project that is expected to churn profits for a private company that services no public interest.
We have published a number of the objections to the use of eminent domain by these CO2 pipeline companies and we have encouraged the legislature to act.
It was unfortunate to learn the Iowa Senate Commerce Republicans lacked enough votes to protect the property rights of Iowans. But Republican State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann stood up for those concerned Iowans on Wednesday.
Kaufmann managed a bill — and amended it — to essentially change the purpose. The bill he amended now protects private property rights by prohibiting eminent domain from being used for these pipeline projects until March 1, 2023.
Equally important to what he did, was how Kaufmann did it. His remarks were masterful.
Kaufmann made clear from the beginning what was happening prior to turning the State Government Committee into a subcommittee of the whole.
“The reason that we are addressing eminent domain today is because landowners who are potentially impacted want certainty,” he said. “I am not anti-pipeline and the amendment that I’m going to run in subcommittee is also not anti-pipeline. In fact, I call it a compromise based on what one side wants and the other side does not want.”
Kaufmann said the reason for moving forward with the amendment is not to interfere with negotiations between landowners and pipeline companies, but to ensure negotiations between landowners and pipeline companies can go on without the threat of eminent domain being held over their heads.
“If someone has something better than what’s before us today, before we get to the floor, I’m open,” he said. “If someone has something that’s more deliberate than what I’ve come up with, I’m open.”
Kaufmann said the amendment considered is about private property rights — period.
He then opened the subcommittee of the whole. Three Iowa landowners spoke against the project.
“They’re using a strong-arm policy I would say and the first thing that come out of their mouth after you tell them no, you’re not interested, ‘well, we’re going to get it by eminent domain anyway,'” said one Iowa landowner. “That’s their negotiation. This will help stop that and make them truly negotiate for an easement.”
Another Iowa landowner said if eminent domain is allowed to be used by a private company for profit, then Iowans no longer have private rights in Iowa for property.
“And, if it can happen to us, it can happen to you,” he said.
Kaufmann’s decision to debate the amendment allowed these Iowans to have their voices heard. Kudos to him.
While he stood up for Iowans, he also acknowledged he hopes the pipeline gets 100 percent easements and goes through, noting he is a fan of commerce.
But, he added…
“Property rights go two ways. There are private property rights for those that wish to have willing commerce on their property and there are property rights for those that do not. This amendment, I think it threads that line.”
Democrats objected to the process used for such a bill. The amendment was tacked on to a bill that had nothing to do with eminent domain — the bill was addressing cosmetology.
Kaufmann addressed the concerns from Democrats.
“Nobody should be surprised what we’re doing here,” he said. “Give me a break. We do things all the time to make sure that legislation gets accomplished. The people back home that are affected by their land, they don’t give a shit about the process. They care about results.
“They don’t care if we say, ‘well, we did a cosmetology bill and we followed the process and it just didn’t make it through, OK.’ No, they care whether it got done. And the reason this is on a cosmetology bill is because Senate File 2022 is in the Ways and Means Committee and is going to be taken care of. This is a funnel-proof vehicle. This is about results. People back home — the reason that Washington D.C. is so disliked is the obsession with the process and we just have to do things a certain way — they want results. There’s nothing confusing about this.”
In terms of the process, Kaufmann said as chair he can offer any amendment he wants in subcommittee.
“The board shall not grant and a pipeline company shall not seek or exercise eminent domain right under this section prior to March 1, 2023,” Kaufmann said. “There’s no transparency or need to digest or just this epic discussion — everybody knows what’s going on here. And as far as transparency, my transparency is the United States Constitution. The name on a deed on a piece of paper that makes you a landowner does not subject you to all of this government crap. That’s what this is about.”
Listen to Rep. Kaufmann’s closing comments:
The amendment and bill survived by a 12-10-1 vote.
We will see just how far this bill makes it in the process, but Kaufmann deserves major, major, major credit for hearing the concerns of thousands of Iowans and — more importantly — acting on them.