DES MOINES — Legislation that would make it harder for two energy projects to win eminent domain rights received preliminary approval in the Iowa Legislature on Tuesday.
Subcommittees in the House and Senate met jointly and approved identical legislation, under which a project seeking eminent domain to build through private properties could get permission only after negotiating voluntary deals for at least 75 percent of the affected land.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said the goal of the legislation was to protect landowners.
“It’s not about wind, it’s not about jobs, it’s not about oil,” he said. “It’s about private property and whether private or governmental entities could forcibly shove themselves onto your property.”
The legislation must now win committee approval in both chambers.
The proposed change could impact two current proposals, both of which are before the Iowa Utilities Board. One is to build an oil pipeline that would ship 450,000 barrels daily from production sites in North Dakota to an oil hub in Illinois. The other proposal is to build an electrical line across 16 Iowa counties that would transmit wind-generated energy from Iowa to customers in the Midwest and East Coast.
Both projects are trying to negotiate settlements with landowners, though eminent domain may be sought. The Iowa Utilities Board is reviewing both proposals and no hearing dates have been set.
The pipeline project has negotiated easements with about 50 percent of the roughly 1,300 parcels of land, said Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners. And the Rock Island Clean Line project has negotiated deals with about 15 percent of 1,550 parcels, said Iowa-based manager Beth Conley.
Landowners questioned both projects during the hearing. On the pipeline, they cited possible harm to farmland and the threat of spills, and they wondered whether private companies should have access to local land for energy projects that won’t directly benefit Iowa households.
Lobbyists stressed the companies were trying to make reasonable deals with landowners and added that the projects could create jobs in Iowa. Jeffrey Boeyink, a lobbyist for the Texas company seeking to build the pipeline, also argued that it was unfair to “retroactively change this process while our approval is underway.”