Noem’s actions speak louder than words on eminent domain

June 28, 2023 5:45 pm
A sign opposing carbon dioxide pipelines stands along Interstate 90 in February 2023 in South Dakota, near the Minnesota border. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

A sign opposing carbon dioxide pipelines stands along Interstate 90 in February 2023 in South Dakota, near the Minnesota border. Eminent domain, a process to gain access to land from unwilling landowners, is one of the most controversial aspects of the proposed pipelines. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

South Dakota Farmers Union policy supports landowners’ rights. Because of this, during the 2023 legislative session, we supported House Bill 1133.

In a nutshell, the bill would have excluded carbon dioxide as a common carrier commodity. Unlike electricity, water or natural gas transported via pipelines, transporting highly pressured CO2 only benefits two private investor groups in pursuit of federal tax incentives.

The legislation passed the House but died in the Senate. If the bill had passed the Senate, CO2 would not qualify for “eminent domain,” which is a legal process to gain access to land from unwilling landowners. And Summit Carbon Solutions would not be drilling on farm ground owned by Brown County landowners like Jared Bossly. And farmers like Jared Bossly could focus on growing crops, not fighting in court with Summit Carbon Solutions.

While Farmers Union and other agriculture and landowner rights group lobbied for HB 1133, Summit Carbon Solutions’ 12 lobbyists worked hard to influence senators against the bill. Summit Carbon Solutions also served as a platinum sponsor of the 2023 inauguration.

I share all this background with you because during a recent interview with KWAT Radio, Gov. Kristi Noem said she had no legal control over the fact that Summit Carbon Solutions is exercising eminent domain.

“There were several bills that came to the Legislature that would have addressed this,” she said. “The Legislature killed them all. None of them made it to my desk.”

The governor is the most powerful political position in our state, wielding extreme influence when it comes to lobbying for bills during legislative session. Yet, never did she or anyone from her office support HB 1133 or any other bill making property rights stronger for landowners.

In the radio interview, she also mentioned her failed bill targeting against Chinese investors, Senate Bill 185, which had nothing to with eminent domain or the way Summit Carbon Solutions is using it to abuse family farmers and ranchers.

The governor pivoted to that bill to throw listeners off the fact she has done nothing to support family farmers and property rights. Moreover, she is doing everything she can for her platinum sponsor of the 2023 inauguration, Summit Carbon Solutions.

Failing legislative action, the governor should issue an executive order to attempt to halt any surveying and test wells for any CO2 pipeline until after the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission considers a permit for the project. The least this governor should have done is use her influence with her party leadership to make sure HB 1133 would get to the floor of the state Senate for debate and a vote. Remember, South Dakota’s House and Senate along with all statewide elected officials are controlled by the same party: the governor’s Republican Party. Any lack of action protecting family farmers from eminent domain abuse is clearly on the governor and her party leadership.

She also has the power to call a special session to address eminent domain’s abuse of family farmers and county commissions, who are calling for specific pipeline setback limitations protecting the public.

In South Dakota, actions speak louder than words. Gov. Noem has clearly spoken with her lack of action.



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Doug Sombke
Doug Sombke

Doug Sombke is a fourth-generation farmer and president of South Dakota Farmers Union.