The Iowa Utilities Board approved an order Monday clearing the way for construction to begin on Dakota Access Pipeline.
In a meeting lasting roughly six minutes, the board voted 2-1 to allow Texas-based Dakota Access, LLC to begin construction on 343-miles of crude oil pipeline, which will run underneath 18 Iowa counties, in areas not under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps or Engineers and federal regulators and where all other necessary easements and permits have been issued.
The vote was another blow to environmental groups, land rights advocates and disaffected landowners affected by the pipeline. Adam Mason is the state policy director for Iowa Citizen for Community Improvement, one of the most vocal activist groups fighting the pipeline. He said his organization has branded the coming months as the "Summer of Resistance," and will support lawsuits brought by landowners against the IUB and DAPL.
"Ultimately, what it comes down to is the IUB has overstepped its jurisdiction here by changing their order," he said. "We're going to continue to fight this tooth and nail to ensure oil never flows through this pipeline.
After the board ruling, Iowa union leaders celebrated the IUB's vote. Chad Carter, vice president/business agent of Operating Engineers Local 234 told reporters Monday he expects at least 900 operators will be working on the Iowa stretch of the 1,164-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline and "at least 50 percent" or 450 will come from local 234.
"It's a long time coming. We're very pleased with the clarification," he said. "... You're always going to have both sides (of an issue). This is the safest way to carry (crude oil) product."
Carter said construction of the pipeline is divided into three spreads and work in Iowa will likely begin in Lee County in the extreme southeastern part of the state. Newton is in what the pipeliners are calling spread II and will not begin until later in the process.
Energy Transfer Partners — Dakota Access' parent company — will still have to give local county engineers, boards of supervisors and landowners a 14-day written notice, according to IUB's March 10 order, before construction can begin. Carter said workers would pull seven-day per-week, 12-14 hour-day schedules to meet the completion date. Mechanical completion of the pipeline, he said, is still set for Oct. 31 with some additional clean-up.
Union leaders said the delays have caused some local pipeliners to go to Illinois and South Dakota.
Board members Nick Wagner and Libby Jacobs voted in favor of the order Monday, stating they feel approving construction in non-preconstruction notification areas, of PCNs, satisfies the intent of the IUB's March 10 order. Board member Geri Huser voted against the order. Huser stated in deliberations on June 1 that she looks at Monday's order as a modification of the original March 10 approval. Huser said she would file a dissenting opinion explaining her "no" vote with staff by the end of the day on Monday.
According to staff, the new order will also address Huser's concern the board may no longer have jurisdiction over the issues covered in the initial board order since it is being challenged in district court. There are currently five pending cases regarding the pipeline in Polk County District Court, including two in which the IUB has been served.
One of those lawsuits was filed by the Iowa chapter of Sierra Club asking for a judicial review challenging the IUB's decision to issue a permit for the DAPL.
Sierra Club believes the project does not meet requirements of pubic convenience outlined in Iowa Code, and the court complaint claims IUB did not follow popper due process by not allowing full cross examination of witnesses or consider the environmental impacts of the underground pipeline, which has the capacity to transport 540,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
IUB General Counsel David Lynch said Monday's order addresses the IUB's jurisdiction over collateral issues, jurisdiction to enforce its and determine compliance with its orders. The order will not be filed for public view until the end of business Monday at the earliest, but Lynch said the order will further define IUB's requirement that Dakota Access will file the required PCN and DNR permit before commencing construction, so the public and board can be ensured that environmental considerations in federal and state agencies are being addressed and that so all permit documentation is filed in the same place for public view.
Records from IUB show, as of Wednesday, Dakota Access is still missing easements for 14 parcels in Jasper County on land managed by Jasper County Conservation, the Iowa Interstate Railroad and retained by private landowners. At last week's hearing, board staff indicated the pipeline company is still requesting eminent domain for 168 parcels in Iowa and 65 sites are considered PCNs.
According to IUB spokesperson Don Tormey, the parcels still in question are crossing of the Big Sioux River, the Des Moines and Mississippi Rivers which are all federally regulated. The Army Corps has told IUB all federal permits, except those previously mentioned, would be issued by June 16.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources also recently revoked a previously issued permit for affected areas of the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area after reports from the site indicate a Sioux Indian burial ground, which has historical significance for the Native American nation, is located in the wildlife area.
Contact Mike Mendenhall at email@example.com