Bakken pipeline developer urges faster decision

Dakota Access wants ruling by December or early January

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The developer proposing a Bakken crude oil pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois wants Iowa regulators to decide on its hazardous liquid pipeline permit request by early January.

That would be consistent with the Iowa Utilities Board’s estimate earlier this year of a decision by December or early January, but faster than the board’s most recent estimate of February.

“We believe the IUB should adhere to the original schedule of rendering a decision by late December or early January to ensure the timely construction of this important energy infrastructure project so we can safely transport domestically produced crude oil to refining markets as quickly as possible,” Dakota Access LLC spokeswoman Vicki Granado said in an email Tuesday.

The board’s hearing on the permit, which began Nov. 12, concluded after about 10 p.m., Monday. The board must decide whether to grant the permit and, if so, whether to grant Dakota Access eminent domain power.

Dakota Access already has hundreds of miles of pipes stockpiled in a farm field near Newton, and has agreements with contractors to build the line. The Texas-based oil company had hoped to begin construction in early 2016 and have the 1,134 mile pipeline operational by the end of the year.

The new timeline puts that schedule at risk.

The $3.8 billion plan calls for pumping up to 560,000 barrels of oil a day through a 30-inch diameter underground pipe that would slice 346 miles diagonally through 18 Iowa counties.

Granado said Dakota Access appreciated Iowa regulators moving “skillfully through the hearings.”

“We will do all that we can to support the IUB in its decision-making process to meet this time frame,” Granado said.

Donald Tormey, the board’s spokesman, said Dakota Access’ wishes will not change the board’s decision-making process.

“The board will take as much time as it needs to review the evidence,” Tormey said Tuesday.

He added by email, “The board and its staff will review all the evidence received in this case and consider the evidence based on Iowa statutes, board rules, and previous court cases before making a decision. ... Iowa law does not require a deadline for the board to make its decision in this case.”

Tormey said the changed time frame came because the case continues to develop and the hearing was anticipated to run long.

“The board has heard other cases with relatively numerous parties and witnesses, although the typical case does not involve as many as this one did,” Tormey said.

South Dakota has already granted a permit for the pipeline, but Iowa, Illinois and North Dakota have not. Other regulatory agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also must bless the project.

Granado said Dakota Access has secured easements for 84 percent of properties along the route in North Dakota, 91 percent in South Dakota, nearly 76 percent in Iowa and nearly 81 in Illinois.

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