The Iowa House this week overwhelmingly approved with bipartisan support a bill that provides additional property rights protections for landowners affected by pipeline projects.

The legislation (House File 565), which was co-sponsored by 22 House members, including Speaker of the House Pat Grassley, advances three Farm Bureau policy goals, including requiring carbon dioxide pipeline companies to obtain a minimum 90% threshold of voluntary easements before being granted eminent domain authority by the Iowa Utilities Board. It also allows farmers to file land restoration complaints directly to the Iowa Utilities Board and removes the current five-year limitation on renegotiating crop damage agreements.

Rep. Steven Holt of Denison floor-managed House File 565 to passage by a 73-20 vote. Holt made comments on the House floor stressing the importance of protecting private property rights in Iowa, stating that the legislature “must advance legislation that protects landowners to the greatest extent possible.”

Three companies are proposing to build multi-state pipelines to transport compressed carbon dioxide from ethanol plants for permanent underground storage. The projects would generate federal government tax credits for permanently sequestering carbon and expand the biofuels’ qualification for low carbon fuel markets.

Summit Carbon Solutions is proposing to construct and operate a pipeline across 29 counties in northern and western Iowa to transport compressed carbon dioxide to North Dakota for underground storage. Summit says it has obtained voluntary easements for nearly 70% of its route in the state.

The Navigator Heartland Greenway carbon dioxide pipeline will run across 33 counties from northwest to southeast Iowa en route to underground storage locations in south central Illinois.

Both the Summit and Navigator pipelines also cross Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Wolf Carbon Solutions is proposing to construct a pipeline stretching 95 miles in eastern Iowa across Linn, Cedar, Scott and Clinton counties to transport carbon dioxide from ADM's plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to central Illinois for underground storage. Wolf’s permit application didn’t request permission to use eminent domain to acquire the easements for the project. However, the application could be amended at a future date to include the request.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who farms in Cedar County, spoke in favor of the legislation and the new protections that it provides.

“I don’t think it’s a fair negotiation when the threat of takings is held above your head. I don’t believe that’s a fair negotiation,” said Kauffmann. “I believe these things need to change for the protection of landowners.”

Additionally, the bill requires pipeline companies to compensate landowners for damages caused by construction of the pipeline and to restore farmland to its previous condition, including conservation structures and drainage systems.

It requires compensation for crop losses or yield reductions due to construction activities and soil compaction, and removes the current five-year limitation on renegotiating crop damage agreements. The legislation also gives farmers the right to file land restoration complaints directly to the Iowa Utilities Board instead of relying on their county board of supervisors to file a claim. 

In addition, the bill creates a study committee to evaluate eminent domain policy and land compensation practices applicable under Iowa law.

 HF 565 now moves to the Senate for consideration.