Texas energy company planning crude oil pipeline in Iowa

Pipeline would slice the state in half


A Dallas, Texas, energy company has announced it plans to have a 1,100-mile-long crude oil pipeline that would stretch diagonally across Iowa — running from the state’s northwestern-most county to the southeast — built and in operation by the end of 2016.

But some state officials contend that date might be overly optimistic.

Dallas, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners L.P. proposed a plan to build the pipeline that would stretch from the Bakken supply area in North Dakota to Pakota, Ill. The pipeline would cross through four states including Iowa and 17 of its counties,

Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, said letters were sent to landowners along the potential route this week informing them of the plans. She said the letters were meant to introduce landowners to the project as well as get permission to survey the land.

“So we won’t have the final pipeline route until that is done,” she said.

Granado said she doesn’t “have a magic number” for when the surveys will be finished, but there already are “boots on the ground.”

“We have an end date we need to meet,” she added.

The company, whose board approved the project in June, said in a news release that it expects to have the 30-inch in diameter pipeline built and in service by the end of 2016. Energy Transfer already has begun the process of ordering steel and negotiating construction contracts for what is being called the Bakken Pipeline.

Energy Transfer Partners does not have a state-by-state breakdown of the potential jobs the project would create, but Granado said the company is estimating a total of 8,000 construction jobs in addition to permanent positions.

The Bakken Pipeline would have the capacity to transfer 320,000 barrels of crude oil per day, with the ability to transfer more in the future if customer demand increases, explained the company in a news release.

The company already owns 35,000 miles of natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines.

Once the proposed pipeline reaches Illinois, it then would connect with an existing pipeline that would have access to multiple markets, including Midwest and East Coast markets by rail as well as Gulf Coast markets that would be reached through another pipeline.

‘Early stages’

But before construction can begin, Energy Transfer Partners must first get the regulatory approval of several state agencies.

Rob Hillesland, spokesman for the Iowa Utilities Board, said the company has requested an informal meeting with the utilities board, but it has not filed any formal petitions.

To put a pipeline on private property, Energy Transfer Partners must obtain the necessary rights from the landowner through voluntary easement or eminent domain as well as provide a land restoration plan, showing how restoration laws will be met.

It also will have to hold informational meetings for the public in each of the 17 counties the pipeline could affect before a petition and review process begins.

“This is in the early stages,” Hillesland said. “It could be years.”

Energy Transfer Partners also would have to get a number of Department of Natural Resources local-impact permits for air quality, water discharge, stormwater, flood plain and even sovereign lands, if the pipeline runs through state parks or public lakes, said Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the DNR.

Energy Transfer Partners also will have to work with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Bryan Bradley, the state utilities engineer for the DOT, said he was not very optimistic of the company’s hope for a 2016 operations start date.

He explained that it will need to obtain a permit every time the pipeline crosses a road — adding that if it crosses a county road, that county will then also need to become involved.

“It’s going to be a lot of permits,” Bradley said.


The announcement of the proposed project already is raising interest among groups and legislators.

On Monday, Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management released information concerning the 1 million gallons or more of extra-flammable Bakken crude oil being shipped by rail through five Eastern Iowa counties, as reported by The Gazette.

Shipments on Canadian Pacific Railway travel through Allamakee, Clayton, Dubuque, Jackson and Clinton counties. At the same time, BNSF Railway ships 1 million gallons or more of crude oil through Sioux, Plymouth, Lyon and Woodbury counties.

The crude oil being shipped from the Bakken area of North Dakota, as well as Montana and Canada, has been found to be more flammable than other oil and also has been linked to fires and explosions in several derailments.

David Goodner, farm and environment organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a statewide advocacy group, said he is concerned about the potential environmental impact the pipeline will have on the state.

“Iowa is already seeing unpredictable weather — with flooding and droughts,” he said. “We’re very concerned by this proposal.”

Goodner said the group still is figuring out what the approval process will be, but group members are likely to speak against the plan during public meetings as well as protest construction sites, if necessary.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told reporters on Thursday he was surprised by news of the pipeline and called for a thorough review by federal regulators.

“I want to make sure that we take into consideration aquifers and other water sources,” Harkin said. “I’m told that these resources, these new oil finds, are more corrosive and more volatile, so that means the safety of the pipes has to be uppermost.

“I’m going to take a look at it, and see what it’s all about. It’s too early now, without knowing how much they’re carrying, where they’re going and that type of thing, to make any kind of a statement.”

However, Harkin added that the country should be moving away from fossil fuels and toward more renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar power and electric vehicles.

“We seem to be putting more and more money into the century-old resources of oil and coal rather than looking at the 21st and 22nd Century energy resources,” he said. “We have to reduce our carbon footprint. The cheapest barrel of oil still is the barrel that you don’t burn.”

Reporter Hayley Bruce and correspondent J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this story.

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