South Dakota senators put end to pipeline protection bills

South Dakota state senators on the Commerce and Energy committee listen to testimony on HB...
South Dakota state senators on the Commerce and Energy committee listen to testimony on HB 1133. If passed, that bill would have redefined carbon so that it was not a "common carrier," making it so that companies building carbon pipelines in the state would be unable to use eminent domain.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 9:02 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - Two bill aimed at protecting South Dakota landowners from a couple of carbon pipelines being built in the state were easily dispatched Thursday in the Senate Commerce and Energy committee, by a unanimous vote of 9 to 0.

HB 1133, would have redefined carbon so that it was not a “common carrier,” making the two carbon pipelines being built in the state unable to use eminent domain.

“HB 1133 allows economic development of any kind, while at the same time leveling the playing field for landowners,” said Rep. Karla Lems (R-Canton), the bill’s prime sponsor, and a champion of disgruntled landowners’ cause. “They have a choice to accept the restrictions and effects of a project, such as a hazardous pipeline, or to respectfully decline such an intrusion on their land.”

Just like when the legislation went through the House State Affairs committee, representatives and lobbyists from the Summit Carbon and Navigator pipeline companies showed up to push back on emotional testimony offered by a number of landowners, who came from all over the eastern part of the state to pack the committee room.

Jim Seurer, the CEO of Glacial Lakes Energy, said the future of ethanol and South Dakota hinged on the pipeline being built. Seurer and other proponents of the pipeline pushed the carbon pipeline as a necessity in protecting the state’s ethanol and agricultural industry in a world shifting towards green energy.

“Our industry, and even agriculture as a whole, is at a crossroads,” Seurer testified to the committee. “Because we know where it is going. If we fail to lower our carbon footprint, we can write our obituary.”

Also like the last time the bill appeared before a committee of the state legislature, many landowners provided emotional testimony on the issue.

“It feels as if no South Dakota land is sacred,” said Wendy Schulz, a landowner from Watertown. “We feel it is wrong that landowners have to pay for a lawyer and lobbyist in hopes of protecting our land rights. Where is the respect for South Dakota landowners? We thought there was a respect for property rights, but apparently not.”

Ultimately, lawmakers agreed that the pipeline was important for protecting the ethanol industry, and felt that it was too late in the game to “change the rules.”

Brett Koenecke, a lobbyist for Summit Carbon, also posed that the legislation was fundamentally wrong in defining carbon as not a “common carrier.”

Koenecke pointed to recent litigation on the matter, where a federal judge ruled as much.

“CO2 is a commodity, it’s fungible it is bought and sold, it is used in commerce,” said Koenecke. “It is used as a refrigerant, for fire extinguishers, for inflating life rafts, blasting coal, and for carbonating beverages.”

Senators on the panel also killed HB 1230, that bill would have incentivized companies using eminent domain to make a better offer earlier on in the process.