Will Iowa finally rule on Bakken pipeline?

Deliberations set to begin today in Des Moines

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Iowa remains the last hurdle to a 1,168-mile crude oil pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks regions, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a terminal in Illinois. But that could get cleared up this week.

Then again, it might not.

The Iowa Utilities Board is considering a request by Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit, which was filed in January 2015, and permission to use eminent domain.

The board has set four afternoons for deliberations this week, beginning at 1 p.m., Monday, in Des Moines. A decision may come during the deliberation, or the board may decide to set another public meeting to decide, the board has said.

“The decision will be made in public, but nothing is final until a written order is issued by the board and filed” in the electronic filing system, said Don Tormey, board spokesman.

When are the deliberations?

The public meetings will be from 1 to 4 p.m., Monday to Thursday, in the board’s hearing room, 1375 E. Court Ave. in Des Moines. It also will be live-streamed on iowautilitiesboard.eduvision.tv/LiveSched.aspx

What will be deliberated?

Deliberations will cover issues raised in briefs filed after a 12-day hearing in December and other matters the board deems necessary to reach a decision. What will not happen? No additional evidence, witness or public comment. No signs or placards will be allowed.

What are they deciding?

First, if the pipeline — which would cross 346 miles through mostly farmland in 18 Iowa counties — serves the public convenience and need. If so, they could grant the pipeline permit. Second, whether Dakota Access can use eminent domain to force landowners to grant easements, at market rate, so the 30-inch pipeline can be laid underground.

According to the utilities board, eminent domain has been granted for two pipeline projects and five electric transmission lines and one denial since 2000.

How much land still is needed?

Dakota Access said in a statement released this past Friday it had secured agreements with 80 percent of Iowa landowners, which is up from about 70 percent in October, and 87 percent of the properties along the four-state route.

When will it be built?

If approved, construction would begin in 2016. Dakota Access had hoped to have the pipeline operational by the end of 2016, but the decision-making has taken longer than expected.

Why is Iowa the last hurdle?

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the Illinois Commerce Commission approved the pipeline request in December. The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved the request in January.

What other permission is needed?

In Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources must rule on an environmental permit request for state water crossing. The Army Corps of Engineers must rule on a National Environmental Policy Act permit for federal waters and endangered species.

Who will be happy if the project is approved?

Dakota Access will be able to more efficiently ship oil, up to 570,000 barrels per day, ultimately to refineries along the Gulf Coast. The pipeline is estimated to cost $3.78 billion, including about $1.1 billion in Iowa, which has the largest stretch of the pipeline.

Trade unions have been vocal supporters. An estimated 4,000 union jobs per state are expected to be created during the construction of the pipeline. Business groups, such as the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, also favor approval of the pipeline.

Who will be disappointed?

Resistant landowners, environmentalists and private-property-rights advocates.

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