REASNOR — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul lent his ear and voice Saturday to the plight of farmers balking at the possible use of eminent domain to take their land for the Bakken crude oil pipeline.
Paul, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, visited the Van Gorp 1,400-acre livestock and crop farm here about 10 miles south of Newton.
“There are times we have to use eminent domain for roads and things like that, but for this, if it is going to another private property owner, I don’t think the government should be taking property through eminent domain,” Paul said.
The proposed pipeline would pump up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken and Three Forks region of North Dakota through South Dakota and diagonally across Iowa to a terminal in Patoka, Ill. Each state will need to grant permission separately.
Multiple generations of the Van Gorps, who farm several properties in the area, and other local farmers came to discuss issues of the pipeline and eminent domain.
“They try to scare you into cooperating,” said Jim Strover, of Newton.
Strover said he receives regular mailings signed by lawyers that he feels are attempts to scare him into agreeing. Strover said he hasn’t and won’t be willing to grant an easement for Dallas-based Dakota Access LLC to build the pipeline.
“If the pipe breaks and the oil leaks out on the ground, it takes 10 years before you can grow anything again,” Strover said. “You ruin the soil.”
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The Van Gorps signed an easement early at a “very good price” but did so because of the threat of eminent domain, said son Bryce Van Gorp and father Carroll Van Gorp.
Bryce Van Gorp said he sees the pipeline as progress. Eminent domain on the other hand, “that’s a crock.”
“The threat of eminent domain was my fear,” he said. “I was afraid if eminent domain was granted they would just condemn my land and take it” for a lower price.
The Iowa Utilities Board is the regulating agency that will decide whether to grant a hazardous liquid pipeline permit in the state to Dakota Access, and separately whether eminent domain can be used to site it.
Hearings are set to begin Nov. 12 and rulings are expected by the end of the year. If eminent domain is granted, county compensation commissions would determine the value of the land, which Dakota Access would have to pay.
Proposed legislation to make it more difficult to use eminent domain failed earlier this year. Estimates of how much eminent domain is being sought ranges from 37 percent of the land, according to the Utilities Board, to 31 percent of the land, according to Dakota Access.
Paul acknowledged there isn’t federal oversight on the matter, but the issue of eminent domain for pipelines has popped up in Kentucky and elsewhere in the country.
“This is not an issue just here. It is an issue across the United States,” he said.
Paul agreed with an argument that it would make more sense to build a refinery in North Dakota, closer to the oil fields, than to pump the oil to an existing refinery
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“Probably because your government has too many damn regulations; it’s too expensive,” Paul said.
Dakota Access needs 50-foot-wide permanent easements and a temporary construction easement of up to 150 feet for the pipeline.
Bryce Van Gorp said the installation company promised no more than 48 hours of disruption to lay the pipeline. But with feed on one side of the proposed pipeline route and the water supply on the other side, they have serious concerns about what it will mean for their farming operations if it takes longer.