DES MOINES — Landowners along the Dakota Access pipeline route are slated to meet this week to discuss Iowa’s eminent domain process and hear legal options if they refuse to voluntarily sign easement agreements with the oil company.
Keith Puntenney of the Private Property Rights Coalition said Tuesday that meetings have been planned Wednesday in Des Moines and Thursday in Storm Lake where lawyers with eminent domain expertise will help landowners prepare for upcoming compensation hearings and provide advice on appraisals, experts and costs for representation.
“This is just to talk about process, so everybody’s on the same page,” said Puntenney, who noted that at least one such hearing has been set for June 13 in Cherokee County.
Iowa law grants eminent domain authority to government entities to take private property in return for fair-market compensation for use as a public utility, public right of way or public service. Critics say that Dakota Access, as a private company, doesn’t fall under any of those categories.
“We expect a lot of litigation to come out of this going forward into district courts,” Puntenney said in an interview Tuesday.
Dakota Access, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, won initial approval of a permit and eminent domain authority from the Iowa Utilities Board in March.
Utilities boards in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois also gave approval for the underground, interstate pipeline, but the Army Corps of Engineers still has not.
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The company indicates it has voluntary easements for up to 88 percent of the 1,254 Iowa parcels held by 910 landowners along the 346-mile route through 18 Iowa counties where the pipeline would transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota to a distribution hub in Patoka, Ill.
“Our best guess is that there are between 10 (percent) and 15 percent of the parcels out there that are still in the mix,” said Puntenney, who is refusing to grant a voluntary easement on land he owns in Boone and Webster counties.
“We’re only at the beginning, not anywhere close to the end,” he said of a legal process he expects to end up at the Iowa Supreme Court.
The permit issued by the Iowa Utilities Board and agreed to by Dakota Access calls for the developer to wait to begin construction until it has received permission from the Army Corps.
Dakota Access has asked to begin construction early on parcels on which it already has easements.
The Army Corps is evaluating parts of the pipeline route for cultural impacts as well as impacts to waterways and endangered species. The review was expected to take several more weeks.