The firm Republican belief in property rights has not stopped the rich Iowa Republicans behind Summit Carbon Solutions from going to court to seize the property rights of more than 80 South Dakota lawndowners through eminent domain for their proposed private carbon dioxide pipeline. Lawyer Brian Jorde, who’s been working with farmers to fight Summit’s pipeline predations, says there are more eminent domain lawsuits to come:
Summit has initiated more than 80 lawsuits against landowners in Beadle, Brown, Codington, Edmunds, Hand, Kingsbury, Lake, McPherson and Spink counties, court records show. The majority of the pending cases were brought on April 24.
…Brian Jorde, a lawyer with Nebraska-based Domina Law Group, told the Argus Leader on Monday he predicts this is only the first batch of filings.
“It’s significant in that it shows how unpopular this project is and how poor this company has handled itself in dealing with people. And it is a significant amount that will, no doubt, be growing, not shrinking,” Jorde said [Dominik Dausch, “Summit Files More Than 80 Eminent Domain Lawsuits in 9 South Dakota Counties,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2023.05.01].
Summit spokespeople squawk that they have to use eminent domain:
John Satterfield, regulatory affairs director with Summit Carbon Solutions, said eminent domain has to be on the table; otherwise, no pipeline of any kind would ever get built.
“The expectation that people want to invest in a project like ours, without that tool available, is a misunderstanding of the business,” he said.
Elizabeth Burns Thompson, vice president of government and public affairs with the Heartland Greenway pipeline, said eminent domain is a last resort. Heartland Greenway has yet to leverage eminent domain.
“It does not save us as a company time or money,” she said, “and it does not make us any friends. It’s only for sheer business purposes at its core” [Joshua Haiar, “‘It’s About Property Rights’: Some Farmers Resent Ethanol Industry’s Push for Carbon Pipelines,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.05.05].
But Brown County farmer Craig Schaunaman, who’s suing to keep Summit off his land, says Summit shouldn’t get to co-opt a government power usually reserved for genuinely public projects:
Schaunaman said a carbon-capture pipeline differs from other projects that have used eminent domain, like electrical power lines and water and oil pipelines.
“First of all, let’s get back to what eminent domain should be used for: infrastructure that benefits the public,” Schaunaman said. “Sure, a pipeline ‘of this nature’ would never get built, because it’s not for public use” [Haiar, 2023.05.05].
Actually, Craig, I’d lump the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines in with the proposed carbon dioxide pipelines: these projects are for private profit, for companies not based in South Dakota. Summit Carbon Solutions and other proposing to build private, for-profit pipelines across South Dakota should have to negotiate a fair market price for access to the land to ensure that South Dakota landowners get their fair share of the profits. If Summit’s project can’t generate enough revenue to pay landowners for the sacrifice of their property rights and the ongoing risk they incur from having hazardous materials transported across their land, then Summit shouldn’t get to build their project.