So, three pipelines are proposed in Iowa to move carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to a storage facility. The idea is that captured CO2 is better than released CO2, making ethanol more environmentally friendly and a “greener” product. Good idea until you realize you have to build a giant pipe to move it to a captured facility. Instead of treating the CO2 on site with scrubbers or buying land from willing owners to put the pipeline in, the pipeline company is invoking the state’s power to take private property for public good. The pipeline company is selling itself as a “bus route” for other private companies to pay to move its CO2 from location a to b. They will just charge a “fare” to enter and exit the pipeline, like a toll way really. The problem is, the majority of the route is through Iowa farm ground that is owned by folks who remember the hollow promises of cooperation and compensation from prior pipeline projects. From a policy point, if you were told a private road was being built over your property and the private road company got to charge what ever it wanted to now and in the future, would you rather own part of that company or just get a one time payment for putting the road in ? The proposed easement is a one-time payment.
Without a doubt, the pipeline install will disturb soil, make it less productive and impair the value of the property now and into the future. The question is can the landowner get enough out of the company in hard concrete terms to compensate them. The free-flowing federal money for “green” projects makes it hard for states to stand in the way. While the state appears to not be concerned, it would appear local county and city governments and private citizens are concerned about the end result. Also, in the end, nobody will see the pipeline once it’s punched in and a few election cycles later it will be only those directly impacted that remember exactly where the pipe was shoved into the ground anyway. The Federal precedent is on the side of the pipeline, as a public good is not that difficult of a showing. While we have seen other long standing legal precedent overturned recently (Roe, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey), I don’t see the Kelo decision (which sets the bar for public use to allow the taking) going away anytime soon. The best course of action is likely to spend your time and effort ensuring that whatever the easement deal that is presented and agreed to is clear, easily implemented, leaves little decision making in the hands of the pipeline company and when or how to pay, and has provisions to ensure that the pay scale keeps up with the economy.
No King, No Crown
A popular joke is running around the internet where it starts with Tell these two images apart. The first is the phrase Most Farm Succession Plans in Action and the second is a picture of the Queen of England with the phrase 96-year-old dies, leaves 73-year-old in charge.
The response is, they are the same. The other joke is that the dad tells the kid he did a nice job planting and selecting the seed last year so this year he gets to combine, and the kid responds, sounds good, but I have an appointment to sign up for social security we will need to work around.
In both cases, it’s funny because it is all too often it’s true, painful as it is. Many ag operations, because of timing or control or lack of trust, deal with this scenario. Now is a great time to examine your operation and see if you are holding back your prince or princess from ascending to the throne. Do 80-year-olds need to be the sole combine operator? Can the next generation market the production? Why don’t we find out before the elder generation is carried away by six at the church? Better a warm hand to guide someone into prosperity than a cold hand from the grave.
Congress doing Congress things
In legislative news, some ag requests for funding are getting slid into the Continuing resolutions for spending by Congress. This includes disaster relief; child nutrition reimbursement rate increases and WRDA (Water Resources Development ACT) funding that helps waterway flood control and coastal flooding controls. Reduction of tariffs on developing countries imports are also being kicked around. Interestingly, it looks like our complicated relationship with China will continue to be complicated as Congress considers excluding some Chinese products from the punishment tariffs they enacted. Meanwhile, China roots against the US interests in Ukraine but fails to overtly come out and say it.
Owww… My eyes…. Prospectively
A member of an environmental nonprofit was found to have standing to object to a hotel’s plan to fill a half-acre wetland and build a new building. Despite the fact the member HAD NEVER BEEN TO THE HOTEL, she claimed she suffered an aesthetic injury. Such an injury occurs when a person who uses the affected area will experience diminished aesthetic value due to the proposed drainage. Even if the individual member never visited the wetland, the court found that she nevertheless experienced an injury in fact because she could no longer enjoy viewing the wetland. The court found that to require them to see the site before claiming the injury would result in a situation where “must “step on the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park to challenge its destruction.” Further, the court found that the fact that it was private property didn’t matter, because the complaining person could see it. This is not a great case for private land use advocates.