The Iowa Utilities board said last week it has denied requests for a rehearing of its March 10 decision to approve a state permit for the Bakken oil pipeline to be built on a 346-mile route across Iowa. The board also issued an order that a complaint proceeding be established for a landowner and it established procedures to address any additional complaints regarding activities of Dakota Access LLC, a unit of the Texas-based company that wants to build the pipeline.
The requests for the rehearing were made by the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club and individual landowners. The board’s denial is the final agency decision on all pending motions for rehearing or reconsideration. That action opens the door for the Sierra Club and others to challenge the board’s decision to award the permit in Iowa District Court.
Group of Iowa landowners is suing Iowa Utilities Board
A group of nine Iowa landowners announced in April they are suing the IUB over its decision to authorize the use of eminent domain to access land for the underground pipeline, which will cross through 18 counties in Iowa. The suit, filed in Polk County District Court, contends that Dakota Access does not qualify as a utility and should not have the ability to use eminent domain to build a pipeline to transport crude oil through Iowa. Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use in return for fair-market compensation.
Construction on the Iowa section of the pipeline project hasn’t begun yet because requests for federal permits are still pending with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, Dakota Access officials have said they hope to complete the pipeline project this year.
Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing pipeline project plans
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a statement on May 3 saying it is still reviewing plans for the Bakken oil pipeline and won’t make any decisions on federal permits and other approvals needed for construction to begin until all government requirements are completed. The Corps’ statement is in response to a four-state coalition of labor, agriculture and business leaders who wrote to President Barrack Obama two weeks ago, urging federal approval of the pipeline project.
The coalition, known as Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN), told the White House the pipeline has been sufficiently studied and “proper due diligence has been done.” The $3.8 billion pipeline project is expected to employ thousands of construction workers, including 2,000 to 4,000 in Iowa.
Corps says it isn’t for or against the Bakken oil pipeline
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not an opponent or a proponent of the project,” said Col. Dennis Henderson, commander of the Corps’ Omaha district. “Our job is to consider impacts to the public and the environment as well as all applicable laws, regulations and policies associated yet with this permission and permit review process.”
The Corps has not provided a timetable for when the reviews would be completed. State regulators in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois have already approved plans for the pipeline, which would be buried underground on a 1,170-mile route across the four states beginning in North Dakota and ending in southern Illinois. Most of the route would cross private land, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction on about 37 miles, or 3% of the project.
Dakota Access LLC has proposed the project, which would transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken oil production area to Patoka, Ill. Dakota Access is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas.
Dakota Access has requested federal permits to build pipeline
The Corps of Engineers says Dakota Access has requested federal permits under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 for water body crossings, as well as permission required by Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. Corps officials are still conducting the extensive reviews required by federal laws, and say it will take more time to complete the process. The Corps’ latest statement provides a breakdown of the Corps’ work that is required in each state before federal approvals can be considered.
Corps officials also say they have met with leaders of tribes in South Dakota and North Dakota which have protested the building of the proposed pipeline, including a meeting last week with the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe.
MAIN coalition has asked Corps to approve federal permits
The MAIN coalition warned in its April 20 letter to the White House that “additional unnecessary federal review” will delay the pipeline and could push construction into two crop growing seasons instead of just one. The group contended that recent calls from environmentalists urging rejection of the pipeline project ignore the stated permission of the Army Corps of Engineers to advance energy conservation and development as major national objectives and to give high priority to the process of permit actions involving energy projects.