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Port: These grandstanding hypocrites were just fine with eminent domain when it was used for oil pipelines

The last thing we need is a bunch of opportunistic politicians jumping into the debate over carbon pipelines not to protect their constituents but to exact revenge on their political enemies.

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North Dakota state Rep. Rick Becker talks at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, about proposed legislation he said would prevent eminent domain from being used to facilitate construction of carbon dioxide pipelines in North Dakota.
Contributed / Rick Becker via Facebook
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MINOT, N.D. — This week two members of the very Trumpy Bastiat Caucus of North Dakota Republicans, Rep. Rick Becker and Rep. Jeff Magrum, announced a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would bar carbon pipelines from using eminent domain.

Becker's participation was a little odd since he isn't running for re-election and won't be serving in next year's session, but he does probably need some earned media for his floundering U.S. Senate campaign, and someone had to do the talking at this press event.

Magrum, as you know if you've heard him speak, is barely coherent.

What was stunning about their proposal was the sheer hypocrisy of it. I wrote recently about how many Trump-aligned "conservatives" think conservatism is just annoying the right people.

Becker and Magrum hate Gov. Doug Burgum.

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Burgum has been outspoken in his support of carbon pipelines.

Now this brain trust, out to stick it to Burgum, is suddenly against pipelines.

These men are posturing as great protectors of property rights, they supported the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline which used eminent domain along its route .

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Magrum, specifically, has been downright enthusiastic about DAPL. He showed up at a 2019 hearing of the Public Service Commission to express his support of a controversial expansion of the pipeline. In 2016, as the pipeline was being constructed, he was downright giddy about the number of workers it was bringing to a campground he owns near Hazelton.

Becker and Magrum, supposedly principled conservatives, aren't so consistent when it comes to eminent domain.

They did at least try to reconcile this hypocrisy. Becker is a prevaricating prat, but he's not a dummy, so he tried to explain that using eminent domain for oil pipelines is different from carbon pipelines.

"He noted he was singling out carbon dioxide pipelines because, unlike oil or natural gas pipelines, he believes carbon dioxide pipelines do not represent a public good," our David Olson reported .

"Carbon dioxide is a waste product," Becker told Olson.

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That's a distinction without a difference. As we bring our carbon-heavy industries, from coal and oil to agriculture and ethanol, into alignment with modern understanding about the climate, there's money to be made from carbon capture and sequestration.

Just as there is money to be made from selling oil or natural gas. Also, carbon doesn't necessarily have to be wasted. It has potential to be used in other ways, such as for enhanced oil recovery. Neither Becker nor Magrum can see beyond the stubby timelines of their immediate political interests to grasp this.

I'm not excited about using eminent domain. It's a brutal process and ought to be avoided, when possible, in favor of voluntary easements. But pipelines aren't a new idea. We have laws and reams of court precedents that govern how they're built.

Anyone who wants to build a carbon pipeline will have to navigate that rigorous process. The last thing we need are a bunch of opportunistic politicians jumping into the fray, not to protect their constituents, but to exact revenge on their political enemies.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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