Iowa is known for being proactive in its support of agriculture and the renewable fuels and energy industry. Now, a Texas company is looking to add crude oil to that mix, and proponents have expressed concern for Iowa’s farmers and rich farmland.
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., based in Dallas, is looking to build a 1,100 mile pipeline that would start in North Dakota and end in Pakota, Ill. The proposed Bakken Pipeline would go through 17 Iowa counties, including Jasper County.
In its release, the company said the project will help them develop the crude rich areas around the pipeline and help supply markets and refineries along the East and Gulf Coasts.
“The pipeline not only supports the continued growth and production on the Bakken area, but does so in a cost effective and environmentally responsible manner by reducing the current utilization of rail and truck transportation as the predominant alternative to moving Bakken crude oil volumes to major U.S. markets.”
While ETP touts the perceived benefits of the pipeline, more than a few Iowas have raised concern. Some issues that have perked ears are that the pipeline would be underground — an oil leak could cause substantial damage to farm values and the environment — and the question of whether private landowners be forced to comply with eminent domain laws.
In his weekly press conference on Monday, Gov. Terry Branstad said he wasn’t sure quite how he felt about the matter yet. He did mention that if the pipeline got approval, there would be reasons to use eminent domain.
“I think it should be used only in very limited circumstances and primarily rights of way should be acquired through negotiations and from willing participants,” Branstad said.
Branstad also indicated he’d like to research the matter a little more.
“Growing up on a farm in Iowa, I know that if you put a pipeline through you also have a number of issues to deal with, including farm tile lines and things like that, crossing rivers and all of that kind of stuff, and so those are all things we need to learn about on this new proposal,” Branstad said. “(It is) very different from the Keystone pipeline ,which mainly goes through the western states where they don’t have as intensive agriculture.”
His opponent in the November general election, Democrat Jack Hatch, took the governor’s indifference as a sign of support for the proposal and enforcing eminent domains on landowners.
“Branstad supports the state taking people’s property to run a commercial pipeline through 17 Iowa counties, creating profit for just one company,” Hatch campaign manager Grant Woodard said in a press release on Monday.
Local representatives have also expressed their thoughts on the matter. State Rep. Dan Kelley expressed his desire to continuing developing the renewable fuel and energy market in Iowa. Kelley’s district encompasses most of Jasper County, where there a number of companies built around renewable energies.
“I’m focused on helping expand renewable energy jobs in Jasper County. We’ve taken advantage of the opportunities offered by wind and biodiesel. It is important that farmers and landowners not rush into any agreements with the pipeline developers,” Kelley said on Monday.
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack’s communication director Joe Hand made a comment on his behalf Monday as well.
“Congressman Loebsack recently learned about the proposal to build an oil pipeline in Iowa and is working to gather information regarding the specifics of the plan,” Hand said. “Whatever the case may be, Dave will make sure that Iowa farmers, landowners, state officials and other affected parties have all the necessary information to make a thoughtful, commonsense decision for our state.”
While the pipeline proposal seems to be turning into a political quagmire, various environmental organizations in the state have vowed to fight it. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member Gary Larsen made reiterated this stance in a release put out by his organization.
“Any attempt to build an oil and natural gas pipeline in Iowa will be met with resistance,” Larsen said. “Catastrophic climate change is already impacting Iowa and we have to start keeping fossil fuels in the ground where they belong instead of threatening the air, water, and land of thousands of everyday Iowans just so a few energy corporations can profit.”
ETP reports that the pipeline would be 30 inches in diameter and be initially capable of producing 320,000 barrels per day of crude. The company said that is already in talks to purchase steel and arrange the pipelines construction.
The Iowa Utilities Board will review the proposal and if the pipeline meets its standards, it could move on to the next level and eventually get to the point where eminent domain could be potentially used on landowners.