Iowa regulators announced Friday they have agreed to help clear the way for the multistate Dakota Access pipeline to double its crude oil capacity.
The underground pipeline, which crosses 18 counties in Iowa diagonally from northwest to southeast, began operating nearly three years ago after vehement protests against it brought worldwide attention.
In Iowa, the owners of the pipeline — a Texas-based consortium of companies and investors called Energy Transfer Partners — sought regulatory approval to bolster its pumping station in Cambridge, south of Ames, to help move the increased volume.
Friday, the three-member Iowa Utilities Board announced it had waived a hearing requirement and granted the request over the objections of the Northwest Iowa Landowners Association, the Sierra Club, the Office of Consumer Advocate and others.
“The IUB found that the increase in oil will not significantly increase the risk of a spill, or the amount of oil that would be spilled if an incident occurred,” the board said in a news release.
The regulators did require Dakota Access to file updates on the approval process in the three other states that also must sign off, as well as any damage claims by landowners and any safety violations.
The pipeline also runs through parts of North and South Dakota before ending at a hub in Illinois. From there, the Bakken crude is pumped to the Gulf of Mexico in a different pipeline.
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Energy Transfer Partners has said it needs to increase the flow of the Dakota Access pipeline because of demand.
While the oil continues to flow, a federal judge earlier this week raised the possibility that it could be halted.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been fighting the pipeline for years with protests and lawsuits.
The pipeline crosses the Missouri River not far from its reservation, and the tribe has been arguing that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct an environmental assessment before issuing a permit — thereby, the tribe argues, jeopardizing its drinking water supply.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered the Corps to conduct a full environmental review, according to a report by National Public Radio.
He instructed the two sides to submit briefs next month for and against keeping the oil flowing, NPR reported.