South Dakota’s Republican Party chairman, Dan Lederman, is tromping all over the state telling us how great it will be to let his rich Iowa cronies and employers tear up lots of farmers’ land to lay pipelines to ship carbon dioxide from ethanol plants in five states up to North Dakota for burial. But evidently some of Lederman’s Iowa friends share Dakota Rural Action’s concern that this project will result in the seizure of private property through eminent domain.
On Tuesday, the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors, in northwest Iowa, unanimously approved sending a letter to the Iowa Utilities Board opposing the use of eminent domain to acquire land rights to build the Summit Carbon Solutions carbon capture pipeline that Lederman is pushing and the Navigator Heartland Greenway pipeline backed by Valero Energy and BlackRock Real Assets. Last week central Iowa Story County’s supervisors voted to send a similar message against eminent domain for these carbon pipelines. Northwest Iowa’s Kossuth County also formally opposes using eminent domain to clear the way for these two projects. East-central Iowa County filed an objection to eminent domain for the Navigator pipeline and other CO2 pipelines on November 19, because they “feel it is important to keep the control of Iowa County land in the owner’s possession.” Gee, how could any good Republican stand against a principle like that?
Lederman’s fellow Republican and Summit lobbyist Terry Branstad has sent a letter to landowners on his employer’s proposed pipeline route in Iowa trying to scare landowners into thinking that the real danger to their farm freedom is the Sierra Club:
“As a landowner and potential partner of the Summit Carbon Solutions project, you are now a target of the Sierra Club,” Branstad’s letter warned. “Please don’t be intimidated. They are not your friends and will be long gone after they have destroyed the ethanol industry and the value of your corn-producing land” [Dave Price, “‘Shame on Them!’: Landowner Pushes Back at Branstad’s Letter Supporting Carbon Pipeline Through Iowa,” WHO-13, 2021.12.20].
But the Sierra Club and smart landowners recognize that Branstad is engaged in classic Republican projection, falsely accusing their opponents of the predations the Republicans themselves intend to commit. According to the Sierra Club, Branstad and Summit are the bullies:
The Sierra Club has a long history of protecting landowners from the destruction caused by pipelines. One only has to fly over the path of the Dakota Access pipeline to realize that years after the pipeline was constructed, the farms still have not returned to their full productive use. Five years later, you can still trace the pipeline route. Since the land was not restored to its full productive value, that will reduce the land values. It is the action of the construction which reduces farm values – mixing of soil horizons, compaction, changing and interfering with the normal flow of groundwater.
Summit Carbon is trying to keep landowners from working together, organizing, and exchanging ideas. In fact, Summit has now gone to court to keep the landowners’ names from being shared. All the while Summit has now sent a mailing to all landowners in their project path telling them that Sierra Club would be lying to them and intimidating them. This is what psychologists call projection – taking your own bad actions and attributing them to someone else.
In fact, landowners have filed numerous complaints with the Utilities Board about the deplorable behavior exhibited by Summit’s land agents, including bullying and intimidation [Jess Mazour, conservation coordinator for Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, in Price, 2021.12.20].
Republicans like Lederman and Branstad supposedly believe in capitalism and property rights. If they truly believe in those principles, they’ll play the capitalist game of offering landowners fair prices to surrender their property rights, and they’ll respect the landowners who reject their cash in favor of using their property for their own purposes.