DES MOINES — Landowners in the path of an underground oil pipeline being built across Iowa were joined by protesters Tuesday calling for the Iowa Utilities Board to address permit violations, establish a liaison to handle complaints and halt construction when proper methods are not being followed.
Mahaska County landowner Pam Alexander said Iowans’ property rights are being trampled by a Texas-based company granted an IUB permit last March as part of a 1,168-mile interstate crude oil pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a distribution hub in Illinois. Dakota Access officials plan to complete the $3.8 billion pipeline by the end of the year.
“Landowners who signed voluntary easements are not being treated right,” Alexander said during a protest held outside the IUB headquarters. “The IU Board needs to appoint someone to take care of our concerns. We need someone to stand up for Iowans who live here, pay taxes here and love this state dearly.”
Likewise, Dick and Judy Lamb, a farm couple with land west of Ames that will be cut diagonally by the pipeline, said they were informed Monday that their crops had been cut but were told they would not be notified 48 hours before construction commenced on their land.
“There just aren’t words to describe having the government seize your land and destroy it and have no recourse and nothing you can do. It’s an anger and a hopelessness that I have difficulty expressing,” Dick Lamb said.
Landowners and protesters delivered petitions Tuesday demanding the IUB respond to complaints over violations they alleged have been committed by construction crews building the pipeline in Iowa.
“The fault rests here with the IUB and the government of the state of Iowa. They allowed this to happen, they enabled it to happen and now they’re washing their hands of it, walking away and not even listening to our complaints or the violations,” he told the protest rally. “We’re not pleading, we’re not begging, we’re demanding it. They need to set up somebody to deal with the infractions.”
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Dakota Access spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger refuted the claims made during Tuesday’s protest rally.
“We are constructing this pipeline in accordance with applicable laws, and the local, state and federal permits and approvals we have received,” Dillinger said in a statement. “This is an important energy infrastructure project that benefits all Americans and our national economy.”
However, Carolyn Raffensberger of the Science and Environmental Health Network in Ames, said there is evidence construction crews — most from outside of Iowa — have ignored accepted practices of not working dirt when it’s too wet, mixing clay and topsoil, contributing to river sedimentation and other concerns documented by “watchdogs” monitoring pipeline work.
The opposition groups say state regulators have been missing in action after approving the project permits.
“The basis of legitimate government is the consent of the governed, and we are here to tell you that we have withdrawn our consent,” Raffensperger said. “You do not have our consent to take landowners’ land, to pollute our water and to threaten ... future generations.”
Protesters said state officials need to establish a public liaison officer similar to South Dakota and create a process for receiving and addressing complaints about pipeline construction rather than continue a “blank check” arrangement currently allowing problems to go unchecked.
During Tuesday’s monthly IUB meeting, David Lynch, the board’s staff general counsel, said a motion was filed Monday by the Sierra Club asking the Iowa board to appoint a public liaison officer. IUB staff is awaiting a response from the company before reviewing the request and making a recommendation.
Six complaints have been filed with the board regarding the construction process, with three having been resolved or closed and one unlikely to proceed without follow-up information from the complainant. Another request relates to the issue of a 48-hour advance notice to landowners, he said.
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In providing a construction update, Lynch said pipeline-related field activities are taking place in all but two counties — Webster or Calhoun. About 60 percent of the right of way in Iowa has been cleared, 40 percent graded, 15 percent with trenches dug and 20 percent with pipeline “stringing and welding” taking place, he added.
“In general, the project appears to be the most advanced at the northwest and southeast ends of the approved route and less advanced at the central Iowa area like Story, Boone, Buena Vista and Cherokee counties,” he told IUB members.
Almost all of the county compensation commission hearings have been held, with the last six hearings scheduled to be completed by Aug. 24. He did not know if any appeals had been filed regarding the compensation commission awards.
Lynch said a number of challenges have been filed and consolidated in Polk County District Court to the board’s March 10 order granting Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, a hazardous liquid pipeline permit and the power to use eminent domain to acquire farmland for the pipeline. A hearing is scheduled Friday on a motion for stay of construction activities taking place on the petitioners’ respective properties, he said.