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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Biehl

Charlie Johnson's Letter to Dakota Ethanol/Press Release Letter in Response to South Dakota Corn Growners Association

Landowners for Eminent Domain Reform

Per Charlie Johnson's request, I am attaching his excellent letter to the Dakota Ethanol board. 

Also, in response to the new resolution with South Dakota Corn Growers Association, Craig and I thought it was important to respond with a press release to their recent policy supporting eminent domain for carbon dioxide pipeline companies.  As part of our continued goals for LEDR, we wanted to advocate and provide a unified voice for our landowner group.   


Landowners Underscore Eminent Domain is Intended for Direct Public Benefit

Corn producers disappointed with South Dakota Corn Growers Association’s new resolutions to support eminent domain for companies proposing carbon dioxide pipelines.

Sioux Falls, SD, January 24, 2024 – Landowners for Eminent Domain Reform (LEDR), a united group of landowners, elected officials, and concerned citizens committed to increasing awareness and sharing important facts and information regarding eminent domain, personal property rights and potential impacts of hazardous carbon dioxide pipelines, responded to the South Dakota Corn Growers Association’s (SDCGA) new resolutions announced January 22, 2024.


“We’re disappointed to see the South Dakota Corn Growers pass a resolution that supports eminent domain for companies proposing carbon dioxide pipelines,” said Craig Schaunaman Brown county fourth generation farmer and corn producer, former legislator, and former State Executive Director for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).


The SDCGA’s resolution supports carbon dioxide pipelines to lower carbon intensity scores at ethanol plants, noting that eminent domain is, “sometimes necessary.” Dave Ellens, president of SDCGA, justified the need for the resolution based upon support for, “policies that facilitate the potential for continued and improved,” corn demand. 

Schaunaman disagrees with SDCGA, “Eminent domain should never be misused by private companies for private profits that do not provide public utilities. Entire water systems and electrical systems have been built without the need for eminent domain. Why would the SDCGA need to support it for private projects solely based upon potential?” 

“I’m a corn producer and helped pass legislation to jump start the ethanol industry in my legislative tenure and have invested in ethanol plants,” added Schaunaman. “While there are new opportunities on the horizon for ethanol; there is no need to threaten property owners with eminent domain or even use it as a last resort. These companies need to negotiate on a level playing field without eminent domain.”


LEDR, which began as a small group of landowners that united when their land was threatened with eminent domain, has now grown to a much larger group of concerned farmers, corn and livestock producers, legislators, local officials, veterans, first responders, neighbors, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandfathers and grandmothers and the like.


For more than two years, this group has been battling to keep their property from private companies abusing current eminent domain laws and pushing political agendas to undermine local control to force the project through.


The SDCGA resolution specifies the necessity of eminent domain for carbon dioxide pipeline companies, outlining it “should be used as a tool of last resort.”

Joy Hohn, a family corn and livestock producer from rural Hartford, opposes this position and its caveat, “It sounds good to say ‘last resort’ but in practice carbon dioxide pipeline companies have used and continue to use eminent domain as a ‘first resort’ and a tool to intimidate landowners. Property owners deserve protection and with eminent domain hanging over their heads we don’t have any.”


“I am truly concerned for the safety of my three generations of family living within a half mile of the proposed carbon dioxide pipeline route through our property,” she continues. “Routing hazardous pipelines – untested at the proposed size and length – through our property, just a few hundred feet from our bedrooms, and a few feet under foot of our livestock is not something we should be forced into based on what others define as a last resort.”


The current pipeline project, proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions, would collect carbon dioxide emissions from 32 ethanol plants, and transport it for underground storage in North Dakota. Doing so would make the project eligible for federal tax credits that incentivize greenhouse gas sequestration.


“The company touts this as a ‘first-of-its-kind' which translates to ‘we don’t know’ if this will work or what will happen,” added Hohn. “The carbon dioxide pipeline companies and their allies have tried to make this a ‘Corn versus Landowner’ issue and it is not. We raise corn and support ethanol; but property rights can’t continue to be sacrificed for private profits.”


"There are many paths to potential increased corn demand that don’t go through our private property and infringe on our rights,” said Hohn. “Just a small increase in ethanol blends, for example, would have an exponential effect on increased demand – true market demand – without additional infrastructure and dependence on U.S. government tax credits for profits and continued operation.”


Last year, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission denied permits to both Navigator CO2 and Summit Carbon Solutions, on multiple burden of proof points regarding compliance with applicable laws, threat of serious injury, safety, and future development. Navigator CO2, who disclosed only 30% of landowners had signed easements, withdrew their project while Summit Carbon Solutions plans to resubmit an application.


“Whether the carbon dioxide pipeline does or does not go through South Dakota, we know this is not the last time we will have private companies looking to use our land or other natural resources for their gain,” Schaunaman added. “Property owners need to take the time to educate themselves so they can make educated decisions that will protect their property rights. And urge the legislators who represent them to do the same.”

The SDCGA position comes out on the heels of a surveying bill calling for notice to landowners and tenants that was killed and pushed to the 41st day. New legislation is expected to be introduced in coming weeks regarding eminent domain reform to shore up loopholes for landowners and other bills overriding local control to pave the way for the carbon dioxide pipelines from border to border.


“This has been a big battle between power politics and those directly impacted who have been forced to do their homework. Most people do not realize the significant safety risks that we’re taking on as entire communities under the guise of economic development,” added Hohn.

“I encourage everyone to do their homework on this critical issue and to reach out today to their elected officials and make your voices known – this may not directly affect you right now, but if you do nothing, it will”, she concluded.” 

# # #

About LEDRLEDR is a united group of landowners, elected officials, and concerned citizens committed to increasing awareness and sharing important facts and information regarding eminent domain, personal property rights and potential impacts of hazardous carbon dioxide pipelines.

Charlie Johnson's Letter to Dakota Ethanol
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