- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 5, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation that would make it harder for two energy projects to win eminent domain rights passed another legislative hurdle in the Iowa Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate Government Oversight Committee approved the bill. Under the proposal, a project seeking eminent domain to build through private properties could get permission only after negotiating voluntary deals for at least 75 percent of the affected land.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said the bill was an effort to address eminent domain for non-public entities. He said he did not expect a vote by the full Senate before next week. A similar bill is moving through the state House, said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton.

The proposed change could affect two current proposals that are before the Iowa Utilities Board. One would build an oil pipeline that would ship 450,000 barrels daily from production sites in North Dakota to an oil hub in Illinois. The other would build an electrical line across 16 Iowa counties that would transmit wind-generated energy from Iowa to customers in the Midwest and East Coast.

Both projects are trying to negotiate settlements with landowners, though eminent domain might be sought. The Iowa Utilities Board is reviewing both proposals and no hearing dates have been set.

Landowners questioned both projects during a hearing last week. On the pipeline, they cited possible harm to farmland and the threat of spills, and they wondered whether private companies should have access to local land for energy projects that won’t directly benefit Iowa households.

Lobbyists stressed the companies were trying to make reasonable deals with landowners and added that the projects could create jobs in Iowa.

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