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Opponents Vow Legal Challenges to IUB Pipeline Decision

Despite intense opposition, the Iowa Utilities Board has approved a permit for a new oil pipeline to stretch across Iowa, carrying nearly a half-million barrels a day. (thebakken.com)
Despite intense opposition, the Iowa Utilities Board has approved a permit for a new oil pipeline to stretch across Iowa, carrying nearly a half-million barrels a day. (thebakken.com)
March 11, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Utilities Board voted 3-0 on Thursday to approve a permit that allows Texas-based Dakota Access Co. to build an oil pipeline across 18 Iowa counties.

The proposed Bakken pipeline, which would run from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa and end in Illinois, is projected to carry a half-million barrels of oil a day, bisecting some 1,300 parcels of land in Iowa alone. Even after extensive public hearings and 3,700 letters of protest, Adam Mason, state policy director for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said he isn't surprised by the board's action. Iowa had been the only state that had not approved its permit for the project.

"I think the biggest concern is still the fact that the IUB just made a decision that benefits an out-of-state corporation over the interests of everyday Iowans," Mason said. "The IUB used their decision-making authority to benefit an out-of-state corporation that's purely concerned about its own profit."

An Iowa Poll taken last month showed that while 47 percent of Iowans supported pipeline construction, that number was down 10 points from the year before. The pipeline will span 346 miles beneath Iowa farmland.

Total cost of the project is $3.78 billion, with about $1 billion to be spent in Iowa. While most property owners directly affected have signed voluntary easements, some 300 have refused, which Mason said could result in eminent-domain proceedings.

"We're going to be organizing, fighting tooth and nail," he said, "supporting the landowners in the pipeline path who want to fight this, and who want to fight the eminent-domain process."

The board cast a voice vote in a public meeting, then released a written decision about an inch thick, stating its reasons. One is that from 2,000 to 4,000 construction workers will be employed building the pipeline.

The potential impact of oil spills is another major concern. Iowa CCI is part of a coalition that Mason said will keep fighting the project.

"Obviously there's going to be legal challenges," he said, "both from members of the coalition, including the Sierra Club, as well as individual groups of landowners that plan on filing legal challenges to the IUB."

The project also crosses some publicly owned land. After the IUB decision, Iowa Department of Natural Resources director Chuck Gipp said his agency approved the permit to cross state-owned land, adding that he found no long-term, negative impact to the environment or natural resources.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA