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House committee advances carbon pipeline eminent domain bill

Brent Duerre

The South Dakota Legislature is considering multiple bills concerning proposed carbon pipelines.

The House State Affairs Committee on Monday discussed six pipeline-related bills in a marathon session. Two of those bills advanced, the rest failed in committee.

One of the bills that passed is House Bill 1133. It makes it so a company transporting carbon dioxide would not be considered a common carrier. That would make it difficult for the company to exercise eminent domain.

Two companies – Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 – might need eminent domain to complete proposed pipelines to ship and store carbon produced by ethanol plants.

The committee was packed with landowners and farmers opposing the pipelines.

Wendy Schultz said Summit's proposed pipeline path ruined her family's plan to build their "dream home" on their property near Watertown. They bought other land nearby, but learned that may be in the path of Navigator's pipeline.

"Is there just no South Dakota land that's sacred?” Schultz said. “At first we felt all alone in this issue. But we started getting connected with landowners across our state who are opposed to eminent domain for private gain. We knew we were far from alone. We feel it is wrong for landowners to pay for a lawyer and lobby to protect our land rights."

Elizabeth Burns-Thompson is a government affair representative for the Navigator CO2 project. She said eminent domain is not properly understood.

“If you break down the fundamentals of eminent domain at its core, it doesn’t save us time, it does not save us money, and it does not make us any friends. Those are three key tenants of business whether you’re a pipeline developer, whether you’re the ethanol plant, or whether you’re the corner coffee shop,” Burns-Thompson said.

The committee voted eight to five in favor of the bill. It now heads to the full House for consideration.

The other pipeline-related bill advanced by the committee Monday is HB 1230. It requires companies involved in an eminent domain lawsuit to file "final offers" in that lawsuit. Supporters say it would encourage pipeline companies to give their best offer sooner and possibly avoid more litigation.

The committee voted down four other bills related to eminent domain and pipeline. These bills addressed pipeline surveys, establishing timelines for pipeline development, and requiring developers to get approval from landowners prior to development. Opponents argued these bills would have a chilling effect on future projects in South Dakota.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.