PIERRE, S.D. — Livestock producers from across South Dakota gathered on Monday, Jan. 8, at the capitol in Pierre to rally for property rights.
“This has been a grassroots movement from day one and basically
who have been affected, whether they are in or near the pipeline site and them coming together rallying around property rights,” said Rep. Karla Lems, a Republican from Canton.
Lems is a member of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, one of the membership groups involved in the rally. The group is not against pipelines and other things; however, they are concerned about eminent domain.
“A lot of these people, they are not against progress, they are not against ethanol, they are not against pipelines, I know myself we have worked with pipelines before, we know people across the state know we need natural gas, we need water, we need electricity, and those kinds of things are things specifically farmers deal with quite often,” Lems said. “We have heard from people that are involved with some of these utilities that it is very rare that eminent domain is ever needed for those types of projects.”
However, when the CO2 pipeline was proposed to go through eastern South Dakota, eminent domain was being enforced.
“This company, because they are a common carrier in the state of South Dakota, were coming in and saying ‘Hey we can use eminent domain to force ourselves upon you, whether you like it or not, and here’s the easement, here’s how it’s going to look and here’s how much money we are going to pay you, and yes there could be negotiations,’” Lems said.
There were around 150 landowners in South Dakota that were served condemnation papers by Summit Carbon Solutions.
“Although there is a variety of issues with this particular pipeline, that is the biggest issue, and that’s the eminent domain issue,” Lems said.
The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that eminent domain is for the government to use for public use projects, with just compensation that is determined in a court of law.
However, the South Dakota state law states that common carriers carrying a commodity for hire are able to enforce eminent domain.
“Which means that they can come in and seize your property, in this case an easement that would go through your property. They would have the right to that easement to do their project and complete that project,” Lems said. “The crux of the problem here is it becomes, we believe, a constitutional issue because this is not for public use.”
Right now, there is no permit in any of the five states that the pipeline was supposed to go through, but that doesn’t mean those landowners are in the clear.
“The condemnation suits that were used in South Dakota have been, to my knowledge, they have been dropped or they are in the process of dropping those lawsuits against landowners, but again they said they are going to reapply with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and so we are kind of waiting for that to happen,” Lems said.
This pipeline may look different than the first proposed pipeline.
“They supposedly have a new route that they have moved the route a little bit and maybe moved it off of some people that didn’t want it, they say now they have turned over a new leaf, that they are really going to be nice and they are going to work with landowners in a much better way, but at the same time a lot of the people that felt that they had been abused by the pipeline, it’s pretty hard to just forget,” Lems said.
By hosting this rally at the Capitol, the Stockgrowers were focused on three things: no eminent domain for private gain, private property rights and the local control issue.
“What we’ve seen is this has started out as an eminent domain issue, as a private property rights issue, but it has blossomed into a local control issue because we are hearing that they are going to be bringing a bill or maybe more out of the Legislature, proposing bills this year saying we want to have one statewide setback for these kinds of things,” Lems said. “That means that the state would get to decide what those setbacks are, what kind of the rules of the game here are as we go along instead of your counties being able to decide those things.”
These issues go beyond the CO2 pipeline.
“We kind of got into that a little bit with the wind and the solar and now we are hearing of a hydrogen pipeline that might be coming out as well, and the PUC is asking to have oversight over that,” Lems said.
Lems says private property is a key component to freedom in this country.
“There’s people that came here because we have freedom in this country for private property and private property really equals freedom,” Lems said.
It is also an important aspect to feeding the world.
“We also know that he who controls the land, controls the food. We have a wonderful ag culture here in the state of South Dakota and across the Midwest, and we produce food for not only here but across the world, and when we lose that freedom and you have all these other kinds of projects that are going to take away from ag production, we really need to take a good hard look at that and really go back to our constitutional rights and our values,” Lems said.
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