Legislature needs to stand up for property owners – Letter to the Editor

Opinion

What exactly is eminent domain and why should Iowan’s be concerned?

Eminent domain refers to the process by which the government may seize private property with proper compensation, but without the owner’s consent….the property must be claimed for “a public use;” and, that “just compensation” must be provided to the property owner.

With the three different proposed CO2 pipelines crossing the state of Iowa, we need to take action to change the eminent domain laws. Pipeline companies such as Heartland Greenway Navigator, Summit Carbon Solutions and ADM are PRIVATE investors looking to make a profit through government subsidies; and their proposed CO2 pipelines are not for public use. If private investors, such as these pipeline companies, are able to use eminent domain, this opens the floodgates to other private investment companies building more projects, not for public use therefore taking more private land under eminent domain.

Pipelines are not bad by any means. Pipelines are certainly a safe method of transporting hazardous liquids and gases. But why do they need to be built on private farm ground? Why not just construct them in the public right of way along county roads and highways? Well, I’ll tell you why. Heartland Greenway Navigator was asked this question during an informational meeting that was held last December. Their response was that it was too costly for them to do so. It’s cheaper for the pipeline companies to cut straight across the state, right through farm ground than it is to follow the public right of way, where all other utilities in Iowa are required to install their lines. The additional construction cost is not my problem, nor is it yours, or your neighbors, or the farmer in the next county over. These companies will profit from their CO2 pipelines for decades. I say make them construct these pipelines in the public right of way! Do not allow them to take my land under eminent domain just to save on construction costs.

On Wednesday, February 16, 2022, the Iowa Senate Commerce Committee meeting pulled SF 2160 from the agenda. SF 2160 was a bill that would ban eminent domain for private projects just like the Heartland Greenway Navigator, Summit Carbon Solutions and ADM. Instead of discussing SF 2160 and eminent domain, the Senate Committee discussed the topics of raw milk and Uber Eats. I guess our Legislators prioritize what Iowans choose to eat and drink over our rights to keep our land…the same land that we grow and produce the foods on that Uber Eats delivers. Since our legislators decided to remove SF 2160 from the agenda, it essentially killed the bill. By pulling the bill, legislators avoided going on record as supporting or in opposition of the topic. It seems very cowardly to not even discuss a topic that so many Iowans are very passionate about and truly concerned over. Elected officials, please, do your job. Address the concerns of so many Iowans.

Senate President Jake Chapman can move the bill to the Ways and Means Committee or add it as an amendment to another bill. Governor Reynolds has the power to prioritize this bill, and she certainly has the power to stop eminent domain for private gain.

Please write to Governor Reynolds and our Senators, and urge them to stand up for the rights of property owners in Iowa. Ask them to prioritize the bills on eminent domain. If we do not take action now, your back yard, farm field or recreational timber might be the next property subjected to condemnation by eminent domain.

T. Andrew and Amber Johnson,
West Point, Iowa

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