Power players in Iowa Senate are aiding and abetting

Bonnie Ewoldt is a Milford resident and Crawford County landowner.

The Iowa House is considering a bill designed to combat “organized retail theft” of property from stores. Lawmakers supporting the measure said they wanted to deter looting, which has happened in some U.S. cities. Law enforcement has not always intervened. 

Iowans may naively think such lawlessness cannot happen here. But it could. 

Summit Carbon Solutions has been using strong-arm tactics to take farmland for a pressurized CO2 pipeline. Meanwhile, power players in the Iowa Senate, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and Senate Commerce Committee Chair Waylon Brown, block all attempts at legislative intervention. 

Two and a half years ago, Summit’s contracted land agents rode into the state in trucks with out-of-state license plates and began to press thousands of landowners into signing voluntary easements. At the Iowa Utilities Board evidentiary hearing in Fort Dodge last year, landowners testified about unrelenting phone calls and visits to homes and workplaces. Some agents told landowners their neighbors had signed when they had not. They frightened the elderly, like my ninety-year-old brother, by telling them they’d “get their land one way or another.”

Summit also downplayed safety concerns, telling us the gas was harmless—the same stuff that puts bubbles in our pop. By the time of the Iowa Utilities Board hearing two years later, the gas had become so dangerous that Summit refused to release its dispersion modeling, on the grounds that it would “constitute highly sensitive security information about critical infrastructure.”

Next came Summit’s surveyors, who entered private property unannounced and without permission to survey the route of the proposed pipeline. Security guards often traveled with them. The group’s trucks drove across private property, creating rutted tracks and ruining crops. At times, distraught landowners called the county sheriff.

Big-city looters rationalize their thievery by saying insurance will pay for the damage. Obviously, this does not justify the egregious robbery of merchandise, destruction of property, and trauma to employees. In the aftermath, store owners will pay higher premiums and lose time and revenue while rebuilding and restocking.

Whitver, Brown, and other pro-Summit legislators rationalize their inaction by saying “landowners will be compensated.” That is true. Exhibit H landowners (those targeted for eminent domain) will receive compensation for the market value of their land.

However, the payment will be a pittance compared to the cost of crop damage, topsoil destruction, decreased land value, safety risks, and the mental stress of defending private property rights. Like the victimized store owners, affected landowners will deal with the aftermath of Summit’s intrusion for years.

Legislators have introduced bills to address CO2 pipeline concerns and eminent domain reform this year and in the two previous sessions. Unlike the retail theft bill, which appears to have leadership support, most pipeline bills died in committee, and many never even got a subcommittee hearing. It is rumored that party leaders told the GOP caucus that no bills relating to CO2 pipelines would make it to the floor. Landowners lobbying at the state capitol heard the same from their legislators.

The Iowa House did approve an eminent domain bill last March, with bipartisan support. But Brown assigned it to a subcommittee chaired by State Senator Michael Bousselot, who had previously worked for one of Bruce Rastetter’s companies. Bousselot never convened a subcommittee. Senate Commerce Committee

George Washington said, “Freedom and property rights are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other.” Both the United States Constitution and the Iowa Constitution guarantee the right to own private property. Only the government—not a private entity—can use eminent domain, and then only with just compensation and for public necessity. If a for-profit company like Summit Carbon Solutions can take private property through eminent domain, for a project that has no genuine public purpose, all Iowa property is in danger of becoming the next target. 

Power players in the Iowa Senate are aiding and abetting Summit’s attempted land grab.

Iowa legislators need to do the right thing. State senators must show courage and stand up to Whitver and Brown’s orders to stand down. Eminent domain reform and CO2 pipeline bills deserve a committee hearing, floor debate, and passage into law.

About the Author(s)

Bonnie Ewoldt

  • House v. Senate

    For what it’s worth, a Republican House member told me the House is more democratic (but unfortunately not more Democratic) than the Senate. The Senate apparently gives the leadership more power.

  • Thank you, Bonnie Ewoldt

    And you are so right. It could happen to any of us who own Iowa land.

  • there is no such thing as a "genuine" public purpose

    that’s why we need elected officials, expert bureaucrats, public hearings, and courts to be the “public” and determine what’s in our collective interests.
    Where is this supposed law enforcement free “looting” happening and are you kidding with slaver G. Washington on “Freedom and property rights are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other.” ?

  • To dirkiniowacity

    I’ve read about a couple of organized mass retail looting incidents in California in which, as far as I could tell, there apparently were not law enforcement staff available to intervene at the time the mass looting was taking place, which happened very quickly. But mass organized retail looting has become a real problem, per the link below.


  • thanks but the numbers don't support the manufactured moral panic


  • ps if folks want to know why prices are going up

    this along with market consolidation and financialization is why media companies are being looted/closed, eldercare facilities, hospitals and mobile parks, rental properties, etc now owned by Wall Street and private finance firms, extracting ever more wealth from the masses and funneld right up to the few at the top. Don’t by into rightwingnut memes about lawless urban areas and woke DAs the real bigtime theft is done by legal/legislative means.

  • My comment was written in response to a question...

    …and there have in fact been incidents of organized mass retail looting. Officials in cities where it has happened have been saying it is a problem. I said nothing about “panic” or how big the problem is or isn’t, and I did not ask any questions.