Bakken pipeline received final federal permit; land use lawsuit pending

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted the Texas-based Dakota Access company a federal permit to build the Bakken pipeline across Iowa.

Although opponents plan various forms of direct action, the best remaining chance for stopping the pipeline is a lawsuit challenging the Iowa Utilities Board’s authority to use eminent domain for a project with no legitimate public purpose.

Continue Reading...

Iowa DNR allows Bakken pipeline to run under Indian burial site

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources amended a permit to allow Dakota Access to run the Bakken pipeline under a sensitive area in the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register on June 20. The amendment means Dakota Access is no longer subject to the stop-work order the DNR imposed last month. DNR spokesperson Kevin Baskins told Petroski the company will run the pipeline "about 85 feet underground" to avoid disrupting sacred ground, which may include American Indian burial sites.

State Archaeologist John Doershuk said in an email last week to DNR Director Chuck Gipp that the proposed directional boring construction method is a satisfactory avoidance procedure from an archaeological standpoint that he supports in this case. However, Doershuk emphasized he could not speak for American Indian tribes that have expressed concerns about the pipeline project.

Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, maintains that a 2004 archeological review of the site in question did not turn up any areas of cultural significance. Gavin Aronsen posted that document and comments from a company spokeswoman at Iowa Informer.

Now that the DNR has lifted the stop-work order and the Iowa Utilities Board has changed its stance to allow pipeline construction before Dakota Access has all federal permits in hand, only two legal obstacles stand in the way of completing the project across eighteen Iowa counties. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue permits covering a small portion of the Iowa route—though I would be shocked to see the federal government stand in the way once construction has begun. A series of landowner lawsuits are challenging the use of eminent domain for the Bakken pipeline, saying a 2006 Iowa law does not allow farmland to be condemned for a private project by a company that is not a utility.

Continue Reading...

More lawsuits challenge eminent domain for Bakken pipeline

Owners of two farms in Cherokee County filed lawsuits on May 20 seeking to block the Texas-based oil company Energy Transfer Partners from seizing their land for the Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register. I enclose excerpts from his story below.

Like a separate lawsuit filed in Polk County last month, these legal claims are based on a 2006 Iowa law, which was designed to protect farmland from being condemned for private development. The plaintiffs argue the Iowa Utilities Board erred when it authorized a private company that is not a utility to use eminent domain.

Regardless of how district courts decide these claims, the Iowa Supreme Court will likely be the final voice on whether state law allows the use of eminent domain for this project.

Dakota Access started Bakken pipeline construction in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois this week, but the Iowa Utilities Board denied the company’s request to start building here. O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa that the board’s legal counsel noted the oil company "has not filed all the necessary permits and associated verifications to begin construction." Although the board approved the permit to build the Bakken pipeline in March, as did the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers has not yet approved permits for portions of the pipeline that would cross federal land.

Brian Morelli and Rod Boshart reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on the Private Property Rights Coalition’s work to educate landowners along the pipeline route about the eminent domain process and "legal options if they refuse to voluntarily sign easement agreements with the oil company." One of that group’s leaders is Keith Puntenney, who has not signed an easement for his farmland in Boone and Webster counties. Puntenney is also the Democratic challenger to State Senator Jerry Behn in Iowa Senate district 24.

More resources for landowners and citizens who oppose the pipeline project are available on the website of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, uniting more than two dozen Iowa non-profit organizations. I expect Bakken opponents to make their presence known when U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota comes to Des Moines as the featured guest for the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event next month.

Continue Reading...

Landowners challenge use of eminent domain for Bakken pipeline

Pipes intended for use in the Dakota Access pipeline being stored in Jasper County, Iowa during 2015. Photo provided by Wallace Taylor, used with permission.

The Iowa Utilities Board issued a permit for the Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline on April 8, after declaring that Dakota Access LLC "has substantially complied with the requirements" of the board’s March 10 order. The same day, a group of agricultural landowners filed a lawsuit challenging the board’s use of eminent domain for the pipeline, intended to carry oil roughly 400 miles across eighteen counties from northwest to southeast Iowa. Litigation grounded in environmental concerns about the pipeline is expected later this year.

Follow me after the jump for more details on the land use lawsuit and ongoing efforts to block the pipeline at the federal level.

Continue Reading...
View More...