Landowner rights discussion draws a crowd
Debate continues on underground pipeline projects across the nation and in South Dakota. The pipes are designed to carry carbon and hydrogen byproducts from power plants and factories.
Landowners and advocates met recently at the 79th annual Watertown Winter Farm show to voice their concerns and ask questions in the push for eminent domain reform.
The farm show offered many of the typical presentations including livestock sales, 4-H programs, equipment booths and education sessions.
But a session on landowner rights brought in more people than anything else.
Spink County CommissionerSuzanne Smith talked about her county's experience as one of the first in the state to require pipeline setback regulations. She said Summit Carbon Solution’s original plan was to divide and conquer at the county level.
“That’s how it was, it was just mainly trying to divide our commissioners. And we weren’t going to do it, I mean, if you can’t bring something to the public at our meeting, we are not going to visit with you in a dark room. It just doesn’t happen that way," said Smith. "We want to be visible. We invite anybody to come to our commissioners’ meetings, voice your opinion, that’s what we are there for is to listen. We didn’t put an ordinance in to keep Summit out, we put an ordinance in to protect the citizens of the county.”
The Famer’s Union hired South Dakotans First to conduct statewide polling and raise awareness of current landowner rights laws.
Craig Shaunaman, who farms southwest of Aberdeen, is also a former state legislator. He said the land rights education is essential.
“I just had someone today say, ‘Well they can’t do condemnation they are a private business.’ I said, 'Well, in South Dakota they can.' I testified the other day and I said, 'I guess what I learned in the country school my first couple years, I guess I need to go back to country school and re-learn it again because it’s not what we were taught,'" said Shaunaman. "And even my personal lawyer says it defies everything he was taught in law school. So, that’s what South Dakotans First does, they’re an action group.”
Shaunaman suggested that landowners be friendly if approached by a pipeline company. He also suggests to not immediately agree with the company’s requests.
The Farmer’s Union will be hosting a legislative lunch on February 13th to speak with lawmakers and join committee hearings and general sessions.