Sierra Club sues to block Bakken pipeline in Iowa, seeks judicial review

DES MOINES -- Construction on most of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline across Iowa soon could begin, regulators said Wednesday, even though its developers do not have all the permits required.

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DES MOINES - Construction on most of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline across Iowa soon could begin, regulators said Wednesday, even though its developers do not have all the permits required.

Members of the Iowa Utilities Board directed their staff to draft an order allowing Dakota Access to begin construction on segments of the route not under federal rule and where all other approvals have been granted.

This would cover the bulk of the project in Iowa, officials said. Construction already is underway in three other states, and the company had hoped to start in Iowa months ago.

Members of the three-member board said Wednesday’s move is in step with their March 10 order granting Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, a hazardous liquid pipeline permit and the power to use eminent domain to acquire land for the pipeline.

“I think following that, we would be in the same realm to say they could begin construction in areas of which they have all necessary approvals, permits and easements,” board member Nick Wagner said.


Adam Mason, state policy director with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, argued otherwise.

“What we’re hearing the board propose to do is a clear modification of their original order. They have consistently said that construction could not start until all permits are met, and the fact remains that they don’t have the Army Corps’ permit and the (Iowa Department of Natural Resources) permit has been revoked,” Mason said after the meeting. “So we anticipate legal challenges if they do in fact modify their original permit. More Iowans don’t want this pipeline and are going to continue to fight this tooth and nail.”

David Lynch, staff general counsel, said he doesn’t anticipate a new order to conflict with the previous decision. He said an order should be drafted by the end of the week, and board members could either sign the document or discuss the matter again at a future meeting.

Essentially, the order would allow work on segments of the route where voluntary easement agreements have been secured.

Officials with Dakota Access said they have secured such agreements with 96 percent

of property owners along its 1,168-mile path from North Dakota oil fields, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a distribution hub in Illinois. Dakota Access officials plan to complete the

$3.8 billion pipeline by the end of the year. All told, the pipeline will cross 18 Iowa counties, diagonally from northwest to southeast.

“I’m very pleased with it. We’ll have over 400 operating engineers willing to go to work. We’ve got work going on in all the states around us,” said Chad Carter, vice president and business representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 234 in Des Moines.


The Texas company is awaiting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over about 2.5 percent of the land in Iowa.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notified the Iowa DNR it was revoking approval for a segment of the pipeline in the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area in Lyon County after the Upper Sioux tribe stated the land contained a sacred tribal burial ground. The DNR issued a stop-work order, meaning that work would not be allowed there until the claim is investigated.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter has filed a lawsuit in Polk County to block the pipeline.

Wally Taylor, an attorney for the environmental group, filed a petition against the Iowa Utilities Board and Dakota Access seeking judicial review of the order granting Dakota Access the hazardous liquid pipeline permit. The petition was filed May 26.

Landowners also have filed a lawsuit over the use of eminent domain, and others - including native tribes and the state archaeologist - have intervened to raise concerns over cultural impacts of construction.

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