IUB, DNR Approve Bakken Pipeline Construction Permits [Updated]

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Energy Transfer Partners

Just minutes after reconvening in open session early this afternoon, the Iowa Utilities Board, as expected, approved a hazardous liquid pipeline permit for Dakota Access LLC’s Bakken crude oil pipeline. Pending legal challenges and subsequent reviews, the 3-0 vote means that the pipeline will be buried across 18 Iowa counties, including nearly 300 parcels held by landowners opposed to the project who will likely face eminent domain proceedings.

The decision makes Iowa the final of the four states along the pipeline’s proposed route, from North Dakota to Illinois, to approve the project. In reaching its decision, according to an IUB press release issued shortly after the vote, the board “applied a statutory balancing test, which found the public benefits of the project outweigh the private and public costs with the terms and conditions imposed by the Board” that are quoted from the press release below. In short, the board concluded that the relative safety of transporting crude oil by pipeline instead of rail and the supposed economic benefits the state will reap from its construction outweighed negatives such as potential risks of spills, soil damage, and eminent domain land seizures.

Here are the stipulations the board imposed on Dakota Access, as outlined in the press release:

Dakota Access must obtain and maintain a general liability insurance policy in the amount of at least $25 million

Dakota Access must demonstrate and file the unconditional and irrevocable guarantees from its parent companies for remediation of damages from a leak or spill

Dakota Access must make modifications to easement forms on properties utilizing eminent domain to include the removal of language that would have allowed valves on any condemned parcel and the removal of language that would have allowed company access on any portion of a condemned parcel

Dakota Access must continue to offer to purchase voluntary easements, with the same terms and conditions already offered to landowners, for the best prices that have already been offered by Dakota Access, at least until the county compensation commission meets to assess the damages for each taking

Dakota Access must file a revised Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan to include landowner notifications and the separation of all topsoil from affected areas

Dakota Access must file a Winter Construction Plan

Dakota Access must file quarterly status reports

Dakota Access must file a statement accepting the terms and conditions the Board has determined to be just and proper for the permit

The full text of the board’s decision is embedded below.

On Thursday, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources also approved a construction permit for the Bakken pipeline on public land, contingent upon approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The permit will require Dakota Access to implement a $400,000 mitigation plan to reduce its impact through habitat restoration.

“We have thoroughly reviewed this application and do not find any long-term negative impact to the environment or natural resources,” DNR Director Chuck Gipp said in a statement.

Gipp, like the three members of the IUB, was appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad whose administration, despite its ostensible neutrality, appears to be supportive of the project.

Check out our previous reporting on the Bakken pipeline here.

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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.