In last week’s newsletter, I discussed the ongoing debate on the use of eminent domain for the proposed multi-state CO2 pipeline projects. This issue is of great importance because it involves a fundamental right grounded in the very origins of our Republic. In this week’s newsletter, I will offer additional perspective on the issues of importance in this debate.
The compelling force behind these projects is of course climate change policy. In The Inflation Reduction Act (horribly named by liberal Democrats, because they know it will actually do just the opposite), Congress significantly increased the value of tax credits related to carbon capture. Iowa being a leader in the production of Ethanol, is now front and center in the push to build CO2 pipelines to transport the carbon created in the production of Ethanol to storage sites.
The tax credits I previously mentioned create a huge incentive for any company (and its investors) that can store carbon. Without the taxpayer funded credits from the federal government, this entire project would not make economic sense. This creates an interesting scenario for investors in the pipeline projects, who stand to make a great deal of money, and it can certainly be argued that much of the money that makes this possible comes straight out of taxpayer’s pockets. Wealthy private investors will make lots of money from taxpayer funded incentives to capture carbon, and by the way, they seek to use eminent domain to take other people’s property in order to make it less expensive for them to build the pipeline. Wow. This is an obscene mutation of the capitalist system I love, but I digress. Let’s get back to the central issue of eminent domain.
Last week, I discussed a court case known as Kelo. This was a U.S. Supreme Court case that many constitutional scholars believe was decided incorrectly by the court, and it opened the door for the seizure of private property by eminent domain for economic development purposes as opposed to essential government services. The Kelo ruling effectively confused the proper use of eminent domain between “public use,” which had always been the standard, and “public benefit.” This decision in large measure helps explain the situation currently underway in Iowa.
Under the Kelo decision, it was a government entity that seized private property and eventually turned it over to a private developer. In the case of eminent domain before us here in Iowa, this would be taken a step further, since the Iowa Utilities Board is being asked by private entities (pipeline companies) to seize the property of other private entities (landowners). This appears to be somewhat unprecedented and takes us another step down the road of government power being used to assault a fundamental, individual right. Put another way, private individuals seek to seize other private individual’s property for their own personal profit, using the power of government to do it. Unsettling to say the least. These companies and private investors should build their pipelines using voluntary easements and should not be allowed to use the blunt force of government to seize other people’s private property. It is really that simple.
Tim Whipple, Special Counsel for Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., who is representing some of our counties on this issue, wrote an excellent article explaining in simple terms what this all looks like and how it will play out moving forward. I have included a link here and I would encourage everyone to read it. It is on page 7 of the link to the Iowa County Magazine.
I continue to work with other legislators on this issue and will keep you informed on our efforts.
I will be publishing two newsletters this week as I work to keep you informed about what is happening at your State Capitol.