Reforming the use of eminent domain in Iowa

The Senate Government Oversight Committee has approved legislation that would curtail the use of eminent domain for certain energy projects proposed by private companies in Iowa. Eminent domain is the right of government to appropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation for the property owner.

Lawmakers have heard concerns from landowners about a pipeline that would carry crude oil from North Dakota through Iowa and about the Rock Island Clean Line project to carry wind power out of Iowa. Critics say these projects are about private profit, not public good. A new Senate bill could affect these proposals, both of which are before the Iowa Utilities Board.

SF 506 has five main components:

  1. Before companies are given the power of eminent domain, Iowa’s Economic Development Authority (the agency responsible for energy development) must recommend the proposed project in its annual report. This addresses the need for ongoing planning that is not met by current state law.
  2. Before companies are given the power of eminent domain, they must acquire 75 percent of the land needed for a project through voluntary easements.
  3. Companies seeking voluntary easements are subject to the complaint and investigation authority of the Iowa Utilities Board.
  4. Companies’ financial responsibility for crude oil pipeline projects is increased to $500,000 or more per county.
  5. Additional protections for landowners facing eminent domain by companies that are not public utilities, do not have a duty to serve Iowans, and are not subject to ongoing supervision and planning by the Iowa Utilities Board. This includes access to legal counsel if the Board finds good cause.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Posted May. 10th, 2015 at 1:11 pm by