Newstrack: Prostitutes-for-pipeline accuser loses land to eminent domain

No trees to be cut down on Hughie Tweedy's Iowa farm

Hughie Tweedy talks about recording the video of the oil pipeline representative at his son’s home in Iowa City, in May 2015. (Wiley Schatz/KCRG-TV9)
Hughie Tweedy talks about recording the video of the oil pipeline representative at his son’s home in Iowa City, in May 2015. (Wiley Schatz/KCRG-TV9)

Background

Hughie Tweedy, 62, of rural Montrose, made news in May 2015 when he alleged a pipeline representative offered to hire prostitutes if Tweedy let a crude oil pipeline cross his 165-acre family farm.

Tweedy made a secret recording of a Nov. 20, 2014, conversation with a right-of-way agent working with Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company looking to build a pipeline through 18 Iowa counties.

Tweedy gave the recording to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which looked into the claims. Lee County Attorney Mike Short announced in October he would not file charges.

What’s happened since

Tweedy opposed the pipeline at a Nov. 12 public hearing, telling the board about the bats roosting in the shagbark hickory trees and the organic produce growing near where the 1,168-mile pipeline would run. Before the board made a decision, Tweedy sold the family farm for $1 to his three adult children, he said.

“I have a loud voice and strong personality and they’ve been standing in my shadow,” Tweedy said. “It’s time for me to be standing in their shadow.”

In March, the Iowa Utilities Board unanimously approved a permit for the $3.8 billion, 30-inch diameter interstate pipeline that will transport crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution hub in Illinois.

Dakota Access also gained the right to use eminent domain to involuntarily take private farmland in exchange for paying owners fair market value for the property.

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The Tweedys won concessions from Dakota Access, including the agreement the company would bore horizontally at least 25 feet below the surface, rather than dig a trench to lay the pipeline.

The company wanted to clear a 30-foot path above ground, arguing trees could wrap their roots around the pipeline and make it harder to access the conduit if there is a leak, according to the board’s March 10 final decision.

But the board sided with Tweedy.

“The need for visual inspection does not outweigh the environmental concerns over the removal of roosting areas for the several species of bats that roost in the trees, particularly when visual inspection may still take place on foot,” the board wrote.

Tweedy said his farm is the only one on the pipeline route that will keep its trees.

Don Tormey, spokesman for the board, confirmed the board’s 174-page order “did not address a similar issue with any other parcel,” but the board was not privy to agreements reached in voluntary easements.

The Lee County Compensation Commission held an eminent-domain hearing over the Tweedy farm June 14, family members said. Commission members would not discuss what happened because the Tweedys have 30 days to appeal.

The family expects to get a check from Dakota Access, but it will be smaller than other parcels on the pipeline route because of the concessions, Tweedy said. But the family doesn’t plan to keep the money and may donate it.

“We don’t want their (expletive) money,” Tweedy said. “There will be a pipeline on our property, but we will never sign our permission.”

Dakota Access has secured voluntary easements on 92 percent of more than 1,200 Iowa parcels, Lisa Dillinger, company spokeswoman, said earlier this week.

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“We have 96 properties for which we do not have an easement agreement,” she wrote. “As settlements are often reached before the legal proceedings actually take place, we don’t discuss specifics as to where each property is in the process.”

The board last month allowed Dakota Access to start pipeline construction on land with voluntary easements and other permission.

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