DeSantis: Eminent domain needed in pipeline projects like Keystone

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at an October 2023 campaign event in Creston, Iowa. (Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at an October 2023 campaign event in Creston, Iowa. (Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

As the debate over carbon capture pipelines continues, Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis said Tuesday in Iowa that the use of eminent domain covered projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline because the production of energy serves a public use.

The Florida governor, speaking at a Council Bluffs town hall on Gray TV, did not comment on the specific carbon dioxide pipeline projects being debated in Iowa. Iowa voters submitted questions for DeSantis, including a question asking if he would “support taking land by eminent domain or a private company for the private gain.”

DeSantis answered that he opposed “expansive” eminent domain use, and that he supported private property rights.

“It is a legitimate power that our founders recognized, but it’s limited to public purposes,” DeSantis said. “So sometimes you need to build the interstate highway system, like they did under (former President Dwight D.) Eisenhower. Sometimes you need to do things like the Keystone XL pipeline for energy that has a public use. But that’s different than something for just private gain.”

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Though the question did not mention carbon dioxide pipelines directly, the role of eminent domain in Iowa projects has been a highly divisive topic across the political spectrum. Two pipeline projects are still pending while a third project failed following difficulties with government procedures.

Final arguments in the Summit Carbon Solutions project are due Jan. 19. The Iowa Utilities Board will decide whether to approve the company’s use of eminent domain for land easements along the proposed route. The project has been denied a permit in South Dakota, but the company plans to reapply.

In a 2023 Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, 78% of Iowans opposed companies using eminent domain to build carbon capture pipelines in Iowa. On the 2024 Iowa campaign trail, presidential candidates have largely said they are against the use of eminent domain in carbon capture pipeline projects.

Forum moderator Dave Price, Iowa political director for Gray TV, also asked DeSantis if he believed carbon dioxide pipelines should receive federal tax credits. Though DeSantis did not say directly that pipeline projects should receive federal funding, he called for the U.S. to increase domestic energy production in “reliable energy” including oil, gasoline and biofuels. He criticized President Joe Biden’s energy policies and policies like the Inflation Reduction Act that encourage transitioning to renewable energy sources, saying these measures will lead to “rolling blackouts throughout this country” and a reliance on foreign countries.

“I don’t ever want us to go hat in hand to Venezuela, or to Saudi Arabia, for energy,” DeSantis said. “Energy, strength and dominance. Against what Biden’s trying to do. It’s good for consumers — you’ll pay less in gas, you’ll pay less in energy costs. But it’s good for our national security because we control our own destiny.”

With less than two weeks until the 2024 Iowa caucuses, DeSantis and other Republican candidates are campaigning across the first-in-the-nation state in hopes of pulling off an upset against former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in Iowa and nationwide. DeSantis asked Iowa Republicans for their support on caucus night, Jan. 15, saying that he will be able to accomplish more in office as president, and that he would be more likely to win than Trump in the 2024 general election.

He also said Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley see his campaign as a challenge.

“Who’s the number one guy that all these people have been going after, spending up $40 million?” DeSantis said. “You know, Trump and Haley have spent all this money attacking me because they see me as as the threat. And you know, a lot of people in Washington see me as the threat. A lot of the New York and D.C. corporate media outlets have been gunning for me from day one, trying to do anything they can to do. Because I think they know if nominated, I will win.”

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Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch
Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register’s Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa’s 4th District elections.

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