A bill to restrict the use of eminent domain for the proposed Bakken crude oil pipeline and the Rock Island Clean Line wind energy transmission line was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.
Senate Study Bill 1276 was sent to the Senate floor for debate. A similar bill is pending in the Iowa House and is expected to be considered in committee next week. The measure would make it more difficult for either project to proceed because it would require companies to obtain voluntary easements from 75 percent of property owners along the route before eminent domain could be authorized for the remaining parcels.
Eminent domain would allow a company to take private land for right of way over a property owner’s objections, after paying fair market compensation. The Iowa Utilities Board has not decided yet whether either project should proceed.
The Bakken oil pipeline, proposed by a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, would cross 343 miles through Iowa while transporting North Dakota crude oil to Illinois. The Rock Island Clean Line, proposed by a subsidiary of Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, would cross about 375 miles through Iowa while carrying electricity generated from wind turbines into Illinois. Neither company is an Iowa utility and neither would serve Iowa customers, which are key factors behind the legislation.
Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, was the only lawmaker Tuesday to speak against the bill. He said the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from interfering in interstate commerce, and he is concerned the legislation would discriminate against companies that want to move crude oil or electricity through Iowa. He also said the bill creates different standards for companies selling energy to Iowa residents as opposed to non-Iowa residents, which he believes may invite litigation against the state.
Garrett added he’s not sure if the requirement for 75 percent voluntary easements by property owners would kill either project, “but it very well might.”
Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who is managing the bill, said it’s his view the bill does not discriminate against interstate commerce. He said the bill was drafted to address the fact that neither company is a public utility and neither has duty to serve Iowa. However, he told Garrett he considers the legislation to be a work in progress and he is willing to work with his fellow lawmaker to address his concerns.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, said there’s still time before lawmakers adjourn the 2015 session to address the eminent domain issue. Many Iowans who oppose the pipeline and high-voltage transmission line want the legislation resolved now, he said. They are worried both projects could be approved by the Iowa Utilities Board before legislators return in January for their 2016 session, he said.
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