Army Corps Approves Bakken Pipeline Permits

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Energy Transfer Partners

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday approved federal permits for Dakota Access LLC’s Bakken pipeline project — the last major regulatory step the company faced in order to bury a crude oil pipeline from shales in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa en route to a distribution hub in Patoka, Illinois.

The Army Corps permits will allow Dakota Access to bury the pipeline underneath waterways along the pipeline’s route, including under the Missouri and Mississippi rivers that border Iowa.

“We can now move forward with construction in all areas as quickly as possible in order to limit construction activities to one growing season and be in service by the end of this year,” Dakota Access spokeswoman Lisa Dillenger told reporters.

The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a labor, agriculture, and business coalition group, praised the decision. “As a local farmer, I have long supported construction of this project and am pleased that today it becomes a reality,” Ed Wiederstein, the group’s chairman, said in a statement. “It will provide untold benefits to the security of our nation and our economic future. The agriculture industry, in particular, relies on affordable, easy to access energy and the Dakota Access project will provide value for decades to come for the thousands of farmers across our region.”

Last month, the Informer joined a flotilla protest against the project on a stretch of the Des Moines River in Boone County. The protest, organized by the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, was calling on the Army Corps to reject permits for Dakota Access over concerns of potential water contamination in the event of a leak, among other issues (see all of our reporting on the Bakken pipeline here).

“The proposed Bakken Pipeline is all risk and no reward for Iowa,” Dick Lamb, a Boone County landowner facing eminent domain proceedings, said after Tuesday’s decision in a statement released by resistance coalition member group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “It isn’t a question of if but when it will leak, and when it does it will irreparably destroy valuable Iowa farmland and the waterways we depend on.”

Ed Fallon, a former state lawmaker and current director of progressive advocacy group Bold Iowa who is an outspoken foe of the project, released a statement vowing “non-violent civil disobedience to delay and halt construction.” “I’m disappointed in the Corps but even more disappointed in President Obama, who has the power to stop this pipeline yet has done nothing,” Fallon said. “When the president sees hundreds of us getting arrested, standing side-by-side with our landowner and tribal allies as we block construction of the pipeline, then maybe he’ll do something.” (Disclosure: In 2006, before I was a journalist, I volunteered on Fallon’s gubernatorial campaign.)

Last Saturday, youth members of the Lakota and Dakota tribes in North Dakota met in Des Moines at a press conference organized by Bold Iowa while en route to Washington, D.C., as part of a cross-country run — a symbolic stand against the pipeline similar to other actions that tribal groups and Fallon have done in the recent past.

Other resistance efforts include a lawsuit opposing eminent domain that a group of Iowa landowners have filed and monitors observing the pipeline’s construction for possible violations that could delay the project.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.