ATLANTA - Iowa farmers and environmentalists are fighting eminent domain that would forcibly take farmland for a CO2 pipeline, pushed by Summit Carbon Solutions and with backing from politically prominent Iowans.
Despite Summit seeking government help to secure the land, one-quarter of farmland owners don’t want to hand over an easement. The corporation behind the Summit Pipeline is fighting a judge’s order to reveal the names of its contracting ethanol plants and the methods it will use to assure that the land will not be harmed - information that landowners and environmentalists would appreciate.
That’s not a good look for a company trying to earn trust.
“I absolutely oppose the use and abuse of eminent domain, whether it’s property owners along the border having their land taken to build a wall, or farmers in Iowa losing their land so a gas pipeline can be built,” says Oliver, 38, Rolling Stone’s “Most Influential Libertarian” and Libertarian presidential hopeful.
“This also leads to further corruption of government when the well-connected get their eminent-domain requests met at the expense of the average property owner. As president, I would cease using eminent domain power, and ask that Congress regulate and limit it or outright abolish the practice altogether.”
The $5.5 billion project would place a pipeline that stretches 700 miles across Iowa. It would carry away liquid carbon dioxide, capturing the carbon dioxide emitted during ethanol production.
A strange bedfellows coalition of the Sierra Club of Iowa and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation shared concerns about cryptic contracts, procedures, connections to political power, and questions about land practices. A few points:
An administrative law judge in August ordered Summit to reveal the ethanol plants contracting with Summit, which Summit says is not germane to permitting as it appeals to a higher court. Understandably, Iowans wonder why a corporation fights for secrecy while it claims that it operates honestly and with great care.
Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds replaced 2 out of 3 members of the Iowa Utilities Board in April. One of her biggest donors founded Summit.
The Iowa Utilities Board was originally set to spend 2 months in an evidentiary hearing about Summit’s plans. Summit sought a 6-week hearing, which it seems to have gotten over protests of opponents and some state legislators.
Studies support farmer-expressed concerns that yields could drop near the pipeline. Studies from Iowa State University show that corn yields dropped 15 percent; soybeans, 25 percent. Another study by Ohio State University shows that corn grain was down 23.8 percent, silage corn was down 28.8 percent, and soybean 7.4 percent. Farmers using no-till methods to protect against erosion and improve soil quality could see decades of their work erased by the construction of the pipeline.
According to a March 2023 poll by The Des Moines Register, 78 percent of Iowans oppose using eminent domain to get land for the Summit Pipeline.
Oliver visited Iowa twice this summer, becoming the first non-Republican or Democrat presidential candidate to qualify for the Iowa Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 19. Oliver spent four days doing the traditional candidate activities - flipping pork chops, serving eggs on a stick, and meeting Iowans in person.
“Rarely is a candidate given such a wonderful opportunity to meet thousands of voters face to face. The fair allowed me to get valuable feedback from the public about their priorities for 2024,” he said. “I had many insightful discussions with Iowans about issues affecting this country like inflation, immigration, medical freedom, education, and support for LGBTQ people's rights against oppression from the state.
“I got to hear from mothers and fathers who are concerned about failing schools, property owners concerned about taxes and Big Agriculture taking out family farms,” he added. “But what I heard most was a desire from voters to have a choice beyond Democrats and Republicans who continue to fail us in Washington D.C..”
Oliver became Georgia’s first openly gay Senate candidate in 2022, and his national attention grew following his debate with incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and an empty podium set aside for opponent Herschel Walker. Oliver garnered over 80,000 votes and forced a runoff between the Republican and Democratic candidates.
Broadcast coverage includes PBS, CNN, Fox Business, and CSPAN. Print coverage includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Rolling Stone, which labels him the “Most Influential Libertarian.”
Oliver is available for media interviews, university journalism, and communications students.
To learn more about Chase Oliver, visit votechaseoliver.com.