Weekly News Roundup: Bakken Pipeline Fast-Tracking Rejected, Iowa Senate OK’s Gun Silencer Bill

Request to fast-track Bakken pipeline rejected: On March 16, less than a week after the Iowa Utilities Board became the last of four states to approve Dakota Access LLC a construction permit for its Bakken pipeline project, contingent upon a list of conditions, the company requested expedited treatment with a shortened comment period after filing documents to show it would be in compliance with the conditions. In a document filed with the IUB, the company argued (PDF):

Because the Board has already found that the project promotes the public convenience and necessity, and will bring substantial economic benefits and a safer mode of transportation of oil to the public, it is in everyone’s interest to obtain those benefits as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is also in the interest of landowners for construction to impact only a single growing season. Finally, the Board should avoid economic waste: now that weather conditions would permit construction, and the adjoining states have already issued all necessary authorizations, every day the project is delayed in Iowa has a very real cost that will quickly reach the millions of dollars.

The IUB rejected the request in an order filed two days later (PDF) that said: “These compliance filings are not perfunctory. The parties, and the Board, must have time to review the filings to determine whether they are in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Board’s order.” Instead of making comments on Dakota Access’ pre-permit compliance filings due March 21, the board said it would stick with its initial deadline of March 25. The company also requested that documents it filed relating to potential damages from leaks or spills and a required $25 million insurance policy remain confidential (PDF); the board has not yet filed a response.

Iowa Senate passes firearm suppressor bill: By a 46-4 vote, the Iowa Senate passed an amended version of a bill passed in the House that would legalize the use of gun silencers in the state. The legislation will now go back to the House for approval before it is sent to the governor’s desk. Currently, Iowa law classifies silencers as an illegal offensive weapon.

HuffPost: Supreme Court could use a public defender like Jane Kelly: Cedar Rapids public defender Jane Kelly, who in 2013 was appointed by President Obama to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, was reportedly vetted as a potential nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court — the thought being that it could test Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s stubborn refusal to even hold a hearing for an Obama pick — but ultimately passed over for Merrick Garland.

But as Huffington Post legal affairs reporter Cristian Farias argued Friday, Kelly could still be a good pick by the next president for a future vacancy. She “represents a critically important, but often overlooked — and always underfunded — part of our criminal justice system,” Farias wrote. “Because of her history, Kelly likely understands what it means to a poor person to have a lawyer better than most people,” he said, later adding, “Voices like hers are needed at the high court — not just because there’s a dearth of real-life trial experience among the justices, but because the rights of the most powerless are perpetually under siege.”

Gavin Aronsen
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.