Iowa DNR sets Bakken pipeline hearing for Dec. 16

Iowa DNR sets Bakken pipeline hearing for Dec. 16

Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources has set date for hearing on environmental permit needed by proposed oil pipeline across Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has scheduled a public hearing for December 16 regarding a state environmental permit needed by a company wanting to build the proposed Bakken oil pipeline across Iowa. Under state jurisdiction, the pipeline will need the permit to cross publicly owned land and streams and rivers. The hearing will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wallace State Office Building auditorium at 502 East Ninth St., in the Iowa Capitol complex in Des Moines.

BIG PILE OF PIPE: The Dakota Access oil pipeline company is hauling in and stacking pipe near Newton in central Iowa. The firm is hoping the Iowa Utilities Board will grant approval for the oil pipeline to be built, entering Iowa's northwest corner and exiting the southeast corner.

The pipeline has been proposed by Dakota Access LLC, a part of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, to transport crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution hub at Patoka, Ill.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Utilities Board has been holding meetings and hearings to evaluate the project and is expected to make a decision in February, deciding whether or not give the company a permit to build the pipeline though Iowa.

Proposed Iowa crossings involve key environmental concerns

The proposed Iowa crossings are the Big Sioux River and the Nelson Tract of the Big Sioux River Complex Wildlife Management Area in Lyon County, the Des Moines River in Boone County and the Mississippi River in Lee County. All four of these crossings will be considered in a single permit, state DNR officials say.

The Iowa DNR is reviewing the environmental permit application and expects to make a decision later this winter. Public input will be considered along with other information collected when DNR makes a decision on the permit application. At the December 16 public hearing, the DNR will provide a brief overview of the permit application and the permitting process, prior to taking comments from the public. Citizens wishing to make comments at the hearing will be asked to sign-in at the beginning of the meeting.

South Dakota regulators grant Dakota Access a pipeline permit

In other news regarding the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, South Dakota regulators on November 30 approved a construction permit for the pipeline that will cross through the South Dakota and Iowa as it carries North Dakota oil to Illinois. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted 2 to 1 to approve the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and construction on the approximately 270-mile leg across that state could begin early in 2016.

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The 1,130 mile pipeline, proposed by Dallas, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, would move at least 450,000 barrels of crude oil daily from the Bakken oil patch in western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline at Patoka, Ill. From there the oil will be shipped to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries and markets. While hailed as a safe and cost-effective way to transport crude oil, opponents of the pipeline worry the pipeline could lead to environmental contamination.

Proposed pipeline needs to be approved by all four states

The $3.8 million project needs approval in all four states, but South Dakota is in line first. "This is an important infrastructure project that will provide a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner to transport this crude oil," says Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for the pipeline company. "We look forward to being a part of South Dakota's business and civic communities."

Public Utilities Commission of South Dakota chairman, Chris Nelson, said the company demonstrated that it has the legal right to have the permit issued. Commissioner Gary Hanson, who voted against the permit, says he's concerned the pipeline is routed too close to fast-growing areas in the southeast corner of South Dakota. Hanson says he ultimately doesn't want to keep the project from being built, but says he just wants it

"done the right way."

"The relative cost of rerouting this pipeline farther away from this growth area is pennies to the dollar for a multibillion dollar pipeline," says Hanson.

Supporters and opponents of the project outline pros and cons

Supporters of the project cite the need for energy security, and also point to jobs it would create in construction. They maintain that transporting oil by pipeline is safer than moving it by rail or truck. Opponents worry the pipeline could contaminate water supplies, farmland and archaeological sites if it sprung a leak and would also harm habitat for wildlife.

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Tony Helland, a member of a group called Dakota Rural Action, a conservation and family farm protection group, said in a statement that the regulatory atmosphere in South Dakota favors incoming corporations and projects over the property rights of private landowners. The group says it is unclear whether there will be an appeal of the commission's decision.

South Dakota regulators granted the permit, with certain conditions

In addition to complying with state and local laws, Dakota Access Pipeline Company will have to give the Public Utilities Commission of South Dakota quarterly reports, hire a liaison officer approved by the commission to deal with landowner disputes, and will have to keep a log of landowner concerns. An independent third party, which must be approved by the commission, is also required to monitor compliance with the permit.

The Iowa Utilities Board is expected to make a decision on whether to approve the project in February. That decision will determine whether the pipeline can cross Iowa.

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