Iowa Senate GOP leader dismisses one carbon pipeline-related bill as ‘undemocratic’

JOHNSTON — Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver says he is personally opposed to a bill introduced in the Iowa House that would let 20% of House or Senate members force a vote on the use of eminent domain for proposed carbon pipelines.

“That is giving the power to a super, super, super minority of the chamber. If you can have 11 senators decide what happens in state policy, I just don’t think that’s a good proposal,” Whitver said Friday during the  “Iowa Press” program on Iowa PBS.

The House bill, which cleared a subcommittee last week, would let 11 senators or 21 state representatives file a petition to intervene in Iowa Utilities Board proceedings and lawmakers would decide whether pipeline projects get eminent domain authority to seize property from unwilling landowners.

“It’s not to say that there won’t be any conversation about eminent domain or property rights,” Whitver said, “but I think giving the power to 11 senators — that’s an undemocratic way to go about it.”

Governor Kim Reynolds told Radio Iowa she will not support any retroactive changes that would affect applications already filed for carbon pipeline construction permits. Whitver indicated there are widely varying views among the 34 Republicans in the Iowa Senate. “There’s people that want to make changes now and don’t want the pipeline period. You have people that don’t want eminent domain for the pipeline, but they’re OK with the pipeline, then there’s people who think (the pipeline) is really important for the future of Iowa, so it’s really a split caucus,” Whitver said, “which is why you haven’t seen action to this point.”

There has been legislation introduced in the senate that would require pipeline companies to fully restore farmland that’s dislodged along the pipeline route and Whitver siad that may be considered this year. “That is a totally appropriate type of legislation to pass right now,” Whitver said. “If this pipeline’s going to happen, we absolutely want the land restored. There’s only a finite amount of land in this state and we need to protect it and so ideas like that I think would have a good chance.”

Whitver said he’d be interested in reviewing, but doesn’t have an opinion yet on another proposal that would speed up the court process for resolving property disputes along the pipeline routes.