South Dakota committee advances bill to stop carbon pipelines from using eminent domain

PIERRE, South Dakota — A bill intended to prevent two proposed carbon pipeline projects from using eminent domain passed a legislative committee Monday.

The committee considered a total of six bills aimed at giving landowners more power in their fight against the pipeline projects. It was the first step in the legislative process for each of the bills during the ongoing 38-day legislative session at the Capitol in Pierre.

“These bills are coming before you because landowners are concerned about eminent domain,” said the prime sponsor of three of the bills, Rep. Karla Lems, R-Canton. “We want choice, and we want protection.”

Current state law says “all pipelines holding themselves out to the general public as engaged in the business of transporting commodities for hire by pipeline” are common carriers. The law also says common carriers may exercise eminent domain, which is a legal process to obtain access rights from landowners who are unwilling to grant them. On an 8-5 vote, the committee approved Lems’ bill to exclude carbon pipelines from the definition of a “common carrier.”

Some landowners opposed to the projects said carbon pipelines are different from oil, natural gas or water pipelines, which deliver a product used by the public.

“I never envisioned, in my wildest imagination, that eminent domain could be utilized in this situation,” said Aberdeen farmer and rancher Craig Schaunaman.