The Iowa Utilities Board has scheduled four days of public meetings in February for deliberations on a request by a Texas-based company to construct a pipeline to carry crude oil through 18 counties across Iowa. The IUB announced January 19 that it plans to meet for four days, February 8 to 11, to discuss the state permit sought by Dakota Access LLC, a division of Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas.
The three-member regulatory panel plans to meet from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day, says Don Tormey, board spokesman. The IUB has previously indicated it could make a decision on whether or not to grant the pipeline permit as early as February, but Tormey says it is unlikely a board decision will be made at these deliberation meetings.
Iowa regulators will deliberate on fate of proposed pipeline
The proposed pipeline, which would cost $3.8 billion to build, would transport oil underground from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to a distribution hub at Patoka, Ill. It would cross South Dakota and Iowa, entering Iowa's northwest corner and exiting Iowa's southeast corner. At Patoka, a town in southern Illinois, the oil could be loaded onto railcars or transported via another pipeline to the Gulf Coast. It could be refined at Gulf Coast refineries or exported.
State regulators in South Dakota and Illinois have already approved the project, and a request for approval is pending in North Dakota. Lisa Dillinger, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, the company wanting to build the pipeline, says the firm has purchased voluntary easement agreements on nearly 80% of the property along the route in Iowa.
Meetings will be held Feb. 8 to 11 at the IUB office in Des Moines
The Iowa meetings Feb. 8 to 11 will be held in the IUB's hearing room at 1375 E. Court Ave., at the Capitol Complex in Des Moines. Tormey says the meetings will be live-streamed on the board's website. If the board makes a decision on whether or not to grant the company permission to build the pipeline, that decision would not be final until the order written by the board is issued, he says.
The board may consider a motion to hold a closed meeting to discuss its decision, according to a notice posted by the IUB on its website. If the session is closed, it will be reopened at a time to be announced, the notice says.
The IUB met in Boone in November for a public hearing on the pipeline project that drew more than 200 witnesses, testifying for and against the company's request for a state permit. The board then conducted a lengthy, evidence hearing to consider the facts in the case. Dakota Access officials say they would like to begin construction on the pipeline this spring with completion by late this year.
Many farmers and landowners object to proposed pipeline
Strong support for building the pipeline has been voiced by union construction workers who would help build the project. Iowa business interests see the pipeline as contributing to the nation's energy independence and a robust state economy. In addition, some farmers and other landowners say transporting oil by pipeline will help ease the congestion on railroads, which would expedite the shipment of grain at harvest.
However, there are also many farmers and landowners along the proposed route who say they don't want the pipeline to run through their land. They fear damage to ag drainage tile lines in their fields and reduced crop yields. Farmers strongly object to the possibility that eminent domain could be granted by the state of Iowa and used by the pipeline company to gain easements for the pipeline route. Environmental activists have joined the fight, saying they are worried about pipeline spills. They also object to building infrastructure to transport fossil fuels.
In another recent development, the Mesqwaki Indian tribe located in central Iowa has officially announced they oppose the oil pipeline project. They issued a press release saying they are concerned the pipeline would harm Native American graves while crossing through ancestral and ceded treaty lands.