Landowners Mark Lapka, left, and Jared Bossly (holding petitions with about 2,000 signatures) speak at the state Capitol in Pierre on July 6, 2023, demanding a prohibition against carbon capture pipeline companies gaining access to land against a landowner’s will. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)
PIERRE — Hundreds of people descended on the state Capitol on Thursday, demanding a prohibition against carbon capture pipeline companies gaining access to land against a landowner’s will.
Lawmakers, landowners and concerned citizens from across the political spectrum called on Republican Gov. Kristi Noem to call a special legislative session to address the issue. She did not attend the rally.
“Governor Noem, you say you stand with us,” said rally speaker Ed Fischbach, an Aberdeen-area farmer whose land is near a proposed pipeline route. “We need your actions to speak louder than your words.”
Protesters have descended upon the capitol in Pierre, demanding an end to carbon capture pipeline companies being able to use eminent domain law. The gathering of ~250 called on more lawmakers and Noem to declare a special legislative session to address the issue. pic.twitter.com/EYvlnihjIj
— Joshua Haiar (@JoshuaHaiar) July 6, 2023
The rally comes amid a heated public debate over the expansion of carbon capture pipeline infrastructure.
Two pipelines that would pass through eastern South Dakota and multiple other states are designed to transport captured carbon dioxide produced at ethanol plants to underground storage sites in North Dakota and Illinois. The aim is to combat climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere, where it traps heat. The projects are eligible for billions of dollars in federal tax credits, and could allow ethanol producers to sell their products in places with restrictive emissions standards.
However, critics argue that the use of a court process called “eminent domain” – which one of the pipeline companies is already pursuing, to gain land access from dozens of unwilling landowners – is a violation of property rights.
“This is going to set precedents,” said Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, in a speech to the crowd. “And if we don’t stop this now, what’s that going to mean for eminent domain for private gain in the future?”
Estimates of the crowd size ran to more than 500. Some wore T-shirts that read “No eminent domain” and held signs asking “Gov. Noem, what if this was your land?” Some argued the use of eminent domain by carbon capture pipelines is improper, because carbon pipelines do not deliver a product for the public as some other eminent domain projects do, such as crude oil pipelines, water pipelines and electrical power lines.
Collin Duprel, who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian for Congress last year, told the crowd that lawmakers who failed to show up for the rally will have a tough time getting reelected.
“There’s a lot of people who are missing,” Duprel said. “They don’t deserve to be in office anymore. We’re drawing a line in the sand, today.”
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Chair of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus, state Rep. Aaron Aylward, R-Harrisburg, said in a press release he is committed to fighting for legislative action.
“Governor Noem: Our land and property rights are under attack, and the time for action is now,” Aylward said. “By declaring a man-made emergency and convening a special legislative session, you can put an end to this assault on citizens’ rights.”
The governor can declare a special session, but so can two-thirds of the Legislature.
At the end of the rally, affected landowner Jared Bossly and state Rep. Karla Lems, R-Canton, delivered about 2,000 petition signatures calling for a special session to the governor’s office.
Noem has not addressed protesters’ calls for her to declare a special session but tweeted last week, “If the Legislature wants to call themselves into special session to change the law, I look forward to reviewing what they send to my desk.”
There was a bill to prohibit eminent domain for carbon pipelines during last winter’s legislative session. The bill passed the House but failed in a Senate committee.
House Majority Leader Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, did not attend the rally. He said in a statement that while he “led the charge for farmers and ranchers during this year’s session,” unless “we get agreement with the Senate on some proposals, we shouldn’t call a special session and neither should the governor. It would be a waste of taxpayer dollars and legislator time.”
“For my part, I’ll be spending the next couple months working with senators to gather consensus on protecting landowners. I hope we get the job done,” Mortenson said.
The carbon capture pipeline company using eminent domain, Summit Carbon Solutions, and its proponents have defended the process as a necessary step for ensuring the future of corn-based ethanol. They point out that the company has already negotiated easements with about 70% of impacted landowners in the state.
“The vast majority of landowners in South Dakota and across the Midwest support projects like Summit Carbon Solutions and want to see these critical agricultural investments move forward,” the company said in a written statement to South Dakota Searchlight after the rally. “This level of support shows that landowners support Summit’s mission to partner with ethanol plants to make them more profitable by opening new markets not available to them today. This will make farmers more profitable, driving economic growth and the ag economy in South Dakota.”
Both Summit and Navigator CO2 Ventures, the other company proposing a carbon pipeline through South Dakota, have permit hearings scheduled later this summer with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with the addition of a statement from Summit Carbon Solutions, which sent the statement after the story’s original publication, and with additional information about the crowd size.
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