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IUB continues oil pipeline town halls with stop in Newton

Hundreds of Jasper County landowners had their opportunity to ask questions of representatives from the Iowa Utilities Board and Texas-based oil company Energy Transfer Partners Thursday during a public meeting at DMACC Newton Campus, detailing a proposed oil pipeline which —if approved — will be laid through 18 Iowa counties.

The series of town hall-style events began Monday and are required by Iowa law to be held in each affected county before the company can apply for a building permit to begin construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Officials also met with landowners Thursday at the Ankeny Parks and Recreation Lakeside Center. The underground pipeline will ship crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, to connecting pipelines and refineries in Patoka, Ill.

To a standing-room only crowd, IUB and pipeline officials explained the construction and land reclamation process, time line for approval and completion and took questions from citizens on a range of topics from the use of local labor and construction resources to environmental impact.

With the local meeting complete, IUB Manager of Safety and Engineering Don Stursma informed the crowd ET now has the ability to survey potentially affected properties in Jasper County, but Dakota Access officials expressed their intent to contact landowners before proceeding on private property.

Approximately 33.73 miles of the proposed 343.43 miles of piping to be laid in Iowa will go through Jasper County’s boundaries. According to documents provided by ET, Jasper County will be home to the most piping in the Iowa segment.

A market analysis provided by the pipeline company shows the median per acre market price of Jasper County land to be $8,592.50 with a maximum market price of $16,000 per acre, but ET Vice President of Engineering Chuck Frey told landowners in the auditorium easement offers would be calculated on the basis of the individual property. ET will commission land agents to meet with the affected property owners at a time of the residents’ choosing to asses properties.

Frey said the pipeline would be covered by a minimum of 36 inches of soil and an increased amount at road and waterway crossings. A minimum of 48 inches of soil will cover the proposed pipeline on agricultural lands. If construction is approved, ET officials said workers would be on individual properties for three to six weeks, and all top soil would be segregated from the construction area. A minimum of 12 inches of top soil would be restored according to state requirements.

Landowners in Iowa are expected to see a total of $60 million in easement and damages if the pipeline construction progresses. Landowners will be offered 100 percent of the value of the affected area of their property for permanent 50-foot easements and 50 percent for temporary easements. Frey said 100 percent of crop losses would be paid the first year of construction, 80 percent the second and 60 percent the third year, but ET officials expect to only have construction affects last one growing season.

Frey also told the town hall crowd that valves would be in place under both banks of major waterways crossings. Pressure and temperature of the pipeline is observed by a live monitoring center, and according to Iowa law, an emergency responder has to be within 60 minutes of any pipeline point.

Iowa law does not require ET to file an environmental impact study with the state, but prior to construction the oil company is required to file an emergency response plan with federal regulators before the line goes into service.

Harold Winnie is in charge of technical services outreach for the U.S Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration for the Midwest region and spoke at Thursday’s meeting. He said the specific number of emergency response personnel able to respond to a spill, leakage or other issues should be spelled out in the required plan. When asked by a member of the audience, Frey did not give a specifics about response staffing, but said ET would meet or exceed all state and federally mandated regulations.

Rob Hillesland is an information specialist with the IUB and has attended meetings on the northern leg of the pipeline. He said it would be premature to say the IUB is leaning one way or another on the project, since ET cannot file a permit until 30 days after the community meetings. The representative said it has been many years since the board has weighed a request like the DAP.

“The board is neutral at this point,” he said. “There hasn’t been a hazardous liquid pipeline permit request in Iowa since the late 1980s or early 1990s. And it’s important to note that hazardous liquid pipelines, unlike natural gas pipelines, the board jurisdiction is only over the construction and not the safety and maintenance. That would fall to the Federal Emergency Management Safety Association.”

ET plans to apply for a building permit in January. If the IUB approves the project, construction is slated to begin in the third quarter 2015 with pipeline service projected to start in the fourth quarter 2016.

Through a commissioned economic impact assessment, ET states $390 million in labor income will enter the state through the two-year process.

Richie Schmidt is a member of the Laborers’ Union Local 353 and a filed representative for Laborers’ International. He said the unions support the pipeline project.

“We whole heartily support the construction of the pipeline,” he said. “It’s going to be build safe. We have training programs in place. These pipelines are highly regulated, as far as the type of people who can work on these.

ET estimates 2,000 to 4,000 temporary construction jobs will be created by the project with 12 to 14 permanent jobs following completion. Frey said ET will hire most of the labor in local union halls. Schmidt said he is not concerned about outside labor dominating the construction process and said Iowa “has the manpower to do this.”

ET estimates Iowa counties will see a total of $27.4 million per year in property taxes from the pipeline. The money is given to the state and distributed based on pipeline mileage in each affected county.

Roughly a dozen demonstrators from the Iowa City-based organization 100 Grannies for a Livable Future held signs in the lobby outside the event and sat near the front of the auditorium during the presentation.

Miriam Kashia, of North Liberty, has represented the 100 Grannies group at three Dakota Access community meetings in Iowa and traveled for eight months as part of the Climate March from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. She is part of a vocal contingent concerned the DAP will further stall a switch to more sustainable forms of energy generation.

“The bottom line to this is our planet is in big trouble and it’s an urgent crisis, and we need to stop putting resources into developing more carbon extraction out of the ground,” she said. “We need to be putting more research into building renewable.”

IUB has five additional community meetings scheduled. The town halls are scheduled to wrap up Dec. 16.

Contact Mike Mendenhall at

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