PUC chairman dodges questions about eminent domain at a meeting of local Republicans

The chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission asks the public to trust the commission’s process and state law regarding the unprecedented large-scale CO2 pipelines moving to South Dakota and the Midwest.

Incumbent Republican Chris Nelson, facing Democratic opponent and Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth in the November election, addressed a group of local Republicans at a meeting of Minnehaha County Republicans on Wednesday after- noon at aa Sioux Falls Pizza Ranch about its promises to keep a lid on utility rates and go through a formal and comprehensive process on whether or not to authorize Summit Carbon Solution’s 2,000-mile CO2 pipeline.

This pipeline is expected to span between five states, including Iowa and South Dakota.

Nelson spent the majority of the time explaining the PUC process and distinguishing its role from elected officials like legislators and county commissioners, but avoided the subject of eminent domain and the ongoing legal battles against Summit from landlords. landowners, which many fear the Iowa-based agricultural energy company will. use a law to take land away if landowners don’t sign on the road.

After:Landowners ‘disappointed’ as Minnehaha County postpones moratorium on CO2 pipeline permits and land use

“The question I want to answer today is, are the PUC and PUC commissioners the same as the elected officials I just talked about?” Nelson said, standing next to a “Truth” sign. “The emphatic answer to that is no.”

Nelson explained that the PUC process is more like a court system than a legislature, as all decisions made by the PUC must be determined on the basis of facts, evidence and testimony presented in a formal record and a hearing process.

But PUC commissioners are accountable to voters, and Nelson is confident he will attract enough voters to Minnehaha County. He expects Minnehaha County to be the battleground for PUC racing this fall.

After:Minnehaha County Democrat launches attacks on Republicans who allegedly supported summit pipeline

“I’ve ‘significantly’ edged out my opponents in Minnehaha County in the races I’ve run versus the races he’s run,” Nelson said at the Republican meeting.

Nelson tells frustrated landowners to go to their lawmakers

Nelson also mentioned that, under state law, Barth could not vote specifically on the role of the PUC, due to an impartiality law.

“…Based on the law and Supreme Court precedent, even if my opponent is elected, I don’t think he’ll ever have a chance to vote on this issue because, by law, you don’t just can’t,” Nelson said. .

Asked about eminent domain by a few participants, he explained that it was subject to the limits of ex parte communication, which prohibits communication without the presence of all parties to the case. He wouldn’t answer in much more detail besides explaining what’s already provided for in state law, much to the dismay of those who pushed him on this.

After:Landowners in 7 more South Dakota counties file complaints against Summit Carbon Solutions

“If people think our eminent estate laws are no good, then who is to fix this?” Nelson asks.

Nelson’s answer is lawmakers, since the PUC does not have jurisdiction. It is also certain that there will be discussions on eminent domain during this next legislative session.

“In Iowa, our counterparts have some involvement in determining who can and cannot exercise eminent domain. Why is that? Because their law is different,” Nelson said.

Email human rights journalist Nicole Ki at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter at @_nicoleki.