Judge denies stay of Bakken pipeline construction; landowners seek IUB emergency halt
DES MOINES — Iowa landowners opposed to an underground oil pipeline being built in Iowa filed emergency action Monday asking state regulators to temporarily halt construction after a district judge refused to grant their request for a stay order.
The new complaint was filed with the Iowa Utilities Board asking the three-member panel to suspend Dakota Access pipeline construction after Judge Jeffrey Farrell denied an effort to have the court intervene, saying the landowners did not comply with protocol to first exhaust their administrative remedies before bringing legal action.
“They cannot skip a step in the process and now claim justification by an emergency. Any emergency is of their own making. They must comply with the process established by law,” Farrell wrote in his nine-page decision. He noted that the issue could return to the court at the conclusion of administrative consideration.
“We are disappointed in the decision to go back to the IUB, but we are following the direction of the court,” said Bill Hanigan, a Des Moines attorney representing owners of 15 parcels in seven counties seeking to keep the pipeline from traversing their property.
“Pipeline construction is moving quickly, and our clients hope to have an immediate decision from the board” on their emergency motion to temporarily prevent construction of the Dakota Access pipeline across the property of 15 landowners while a lawsuit remains pending in Polk County District Court. Farrell held that the IUB must rule upon the motion before the court will consider the question further.
Earlier this year, the Iowa Utilities Board granted a permit to Texas-based Dakota Access and ruled the company could use the state’s power of eminent domain to proceed with its proposed oil pipeline.
Hanigan argued last week that the board acted unconstitutionally and misinterpreted Iowa law designed to protect Iowa farmland, claiming Dakota Access is not a public utility and should not have the ability to use eminent domain to forcibly access Iowa landowners’ property to build a private pipeline.
The lawsuit argued the pipeline developer shouldn’t be allowed to force landowners to sell easements by unconstitutionally condemning the land against their will in a way that runs contrary to a 2006 Iowa law.
However, Bret Dublinske, a Des Moines lawyer for Dakota Access LLC, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, countered that the landowners claims were without merit and the company should be able to proceed under a state permit and eminent domain authority granted by the Iowa Utilities Board.
Dublinske said the company would suffer significant financial losses if the Iowa leg is delayed as part of a $3.8 billion, 1,168-mile underground pipeline slated to transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken region to a distribution hub at Patoka, Ill. The project will place 346 miles of pipeline in 18 Iowa counties, crossing the state on a diagonal from northwest to southeast.
Dublinske also contended Dakota Access meets the standards set out in Iowa law, that the challengers have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and purposefully delayed bringing legal action to create a false emergency under bogus claims that landowners constitutional rights are being violated.