The Iowa Utilities Board ruled this week that Dakota Access, LLC, substantially complied with Iowa law when it notified landowners of its plans to seek a permit to build an oil pipeline across their property. Because the legally-required newspaper notice erroneously stated that the pipeline would be buried under 60 inches of soil, instead of under 48 inches of soil (which is the actual plan), an environmental coalition (including the Sierra Club) challenged the validity of the notice in a January 5, 2015, "Motion for Clarification." The coalition alleged that Dakota Access should have to send proper notice and then reschedule all of its public informational meetings in the impacted counties. The coalition sought to have any further action placed on hold until the new notice was provided and the meetings were held.
The Iowa Utilities Board, which is the body that will ultimately decide whether to grant the permit to Dakota Access, found that the company's original notice was in substantial compliance with Iowa law. The Board found that the error was of a "technical nature," not material, and that there was no showing of prejudice to the landowners.
This order means that Dakota Access will continue to seek voluntary easements from individual landowners in its quest to build 346 miles of pipeline across Iowa. As explained in our article from January 22, 2015, this proposed 1134-mile pipeline would transport crude oil from the Bakken Shale Oil field in North Dakota to a refinery hub in Illinois. After Dakota Access files a request for rights to eminent doman for specific parcels, the Iowa Utlities Board will schedule a hearing to determine whether to grant the permit. The question will be whether the proposed line will "promote the public convenience and necessity." If the Board ultimately decides to grant the permit, Dakota Access would have the right to acquire easements through eminent domain in exchange for "just compensation."
It's hard to tell how long Dakota Access will spend attempting to negotiate voluntary easements before moving forward with its next filing. Stay posted for further updates.
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