Republicans ask each other for more accountability to stop carbon pipelines

By: - July 8, 2023 3:12 pm

Former Rep. Steve King gifts an illustration featuring President of China Xi Jinping, businessmen Larry Fink and Bruce Rastetter and Former Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to North Dakota State Sen. Jeff Magrum at an event on Saturday in Fort Dodge. (Photo by Jay Waagmeester/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

FORT DODGE — Republicans, constituents and politicians called each other to action Saturday to fight against pipeline companies using eminent domain to acquire farmland, saying some GOP officials are not doing enough to stop the companies.

The Midwestern Coalition to Protect Private Property Rights hosted an event in Fort Dodge to unite farmers, community members and politicians to fight against pipeline companies using government authority to obtain easements from unwilling Midwest farmers. Organizers said more than 300 people attended.

The event featured Republican politicians from Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota, three states that, along with Nebraska and Minnesota, are facing similar conflicts between the pipeline projects and property rights.

(Logo by Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

This story is one of an occasional series on the conflict between carbon-capture pipeline projects and landowners in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Steve King, former U.S. representative for Iowa, said voters need to hold their elected officials accountable when it comes to pipelines and eminent domain. 

“I would say to the people and constituents, go see your state representative, your state senator, call the governor’s office, maybe talk to our secretary of agriculture, our attorney general perhaps and weigh in on this,” King said.

King said many of Iowa’s elected officials have not acted in the interests of the people of Iowa. 

“The representation that we have in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate, the governor, that goes for some of the executive offices, too, none of them at that level have weighed in on this thing on behalf of the landowners,” King said.

King said by networking across state lines and recruiting others, the pipeline process can be bogged down. 

Iowa state Rep. Steve Holt attended the event, but didn’t speak. He was the floor manager of House File 565, introduced this spring to restrict eminent domain for pipelines. 

Attendees of Saturday’s event referenced the bill, which would require pipelines to obtain voluntary easements for 90% of their routes before eminent domain could be used for the remainder. 

The bill passed the House but failed to get a hearing in a Senate Commerce subcommittee chaired by Sen. Mike Bousselot, R-Ankeny. 

Scott Ritland, 63, a Republican from Story County who farms land that has been in his family 1862, said the bill’s failure to advance was evidence of special-interest influence.

“The fix is in, the politicians have been bought off, they’ve been strategically purchased at their precise locations,” Ritland said. 

Ritland mentioned Bousselot had previously worked for Summit Agricultural Group, which owns Summit Carbon Solutions, a carbon pipeline company. 

Ritland is not sure how he plans to vote in the future, but politicians listening to their constituents, specifically about pipelines, will play a large role in his decision in the booth. 

“I might soon be a former Republican. I registered as a Republican at age 18, and I’m now 63. They’re not listening to us,” Ritland said. “Several of my neighbors, including myself, we might begin to start voting Democrat, not because we’re Democrats, but just as a protest vote against the corrupt Republican Party of Iowa.”

Ritland said he has been approached by Navigator to purchase  an easement over 2.5 miles of his 240- acre property. 

Pipelines that could run through multiple states, including Iowa, are designed to transport captured carbon dioxide produced at ethanol plants. The pipelines, eligible for billions of dollars in federal tax credits, aim to combat climate change by preventing the carbon produced from the ethanol plants from entering the atmosphere, though many attendees to Saturday’s event contest this. 

Jerry Goldsmith, a lifelong farmer from Cedar County, said he expects more out of the Republican Party, though the issue may not be enough for him to switch his party. 

“I think I’ve been disappointed in some of our Republicans, in that they probably have not supported the really rule of law that is eminent domain and (have) been more favorable to pipeline companies that are coming through,” Goldsmith said.

Pipelines are toward the top of his list of voting issues.

“I have been a Governor Reynolds fan, I’m no longer a Governor Reynolds fan,” Goldsmith said. “I’m really really disappointed in what has happened and her influence with the Iowa Senate which didn’t allow that bill to come forth … I’m not sure I can vote for a Democrat either.”

Goldsmith is on the route of the Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, but has not been approached yet for acquisition of his land. Wolf has said it intends to proceed with only voluntary acquisition of easements.

Elected officials 

South Dakota state Rep. Julie Auch told attendees to Saturday’s event how seriously she takes her oath to not take bribes, and voters should be proactive in voting out candidates who are supported by pipelines. 

“If they [your state legislators] are getting big campaign donations from Summit or Navigator, call them out,” Auch said. “America’s farmers are the best stewards of the land, not the government.” 

South Dakota state Rep. Karla Lems told the crowd to not just vote Republican, but make sure candidates are conservative Republicans. 

“If you can get other conservatives that will go to the mat for you, try to get them into office and encourage them to run,” Lems said. “We have a good group of conservatives in the South Dakota Legislature, but we don’t have enough. We are very heavily Republican, but that does not always mean that we are conservative Republicans, constitutional Republicans.”

Lems made a call to action to attendees, or else the party will lose its prominence. 

“I call on Kim Reynolds, I call on these people that have ran on these values, and if this is truly who they are at the heart of their being, they will do something,” Lems said. “As Republicans, we are so busy, we are out doing our jobs, we are working hard, that is who we are. But we better get involved because we are losing our country.”

Lems said one of the reasons she ran for office was because she saw issues within her own party. 

“I also saw there were issues within our own Republican Party because you know what, we do not hold other Republicans accountable, and that has got to change.” 

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Jay Waagmeester
Jay Waagmeester

Jay is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch intern. Jay is based in Ames and is currently a senior majoring in journalism and marketing at Iowa State University. He has interned at New Century Press and contributed to the Iowa State Daily.