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Iowa lawmakers table ethics complaint over CO2 pipeline bill

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Mark Moran

(Iowa News Service) Iowa lawmakers have tabled an ethics complaint against a state senator whom critics said blocked a bill to regulate carbon dioxide pipelines in the state.

The pipelines, pitched as one approach to the climate crisis, have been a source of controversy in the Midwest. House File 565 would restrict companies' ability to use eminent domain laws to place pipelines on private property without a landowner's permission.

The bill passed the House, and in the Senate, it was assigned to a subcommittee chaired by longtime industry supporter, Sen. Mike Bousselot, R-Ankeny, who promptly killed it.

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Hugh Espey, executive director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, filed an ethics complaint, saying Bousselot should have recused himself from any involvement. 

"This gives the appearance of unethical conduct," Espey contended. "He should have said, 'Nope. Hands off.' He torpedoed it."

Espey was escorted out of a Senate Ethics Committee hearing by police for speaking out of order. The committee tabled the complaint, effectively killing the bill for the year. Bousselot countered his past business involvement had no bearing on his decision, and no Iowa law prohibited him from ruling on the bill. 

The pipelines would take carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants, liquefy and sequester them underground, while allowing the pipeline companies to claim carbon tax credits.

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Carbon sequestration is seen by some as a potential approach to addressing climate change. Pipeline opponents like Espey argued beyond the pipelines' environmental threats and risks to people, farmers could see their livelihoods threatened, as well. 

"Reduced yields, drainage problems, because when they start digging around, there's field tiles out there, there's drainage tiles," Espey pointed out. "Are you busting those up, you know? And if you are, who's repairin' 'em? Because if you bust those up, then that's going to make it harder to farm. So, it does create problems for folks that are farmin' the ground."

Three companies have proposed installing pipelines in Iowa: Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 Ventures, and Archer Daniels Midland.