IUB’s Lozier Recuses Himself from Dakota Access Rulings

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Richard Lozier, the most recent Branstad appointee to the three-member Iowa Utilities Board, has recused himself from all decisions involving the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline. Before joining the board in May, Lozier served as legal counsel for the pro-pipeline group Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now.

“I, Richard W. Lozier, Jr., state that I hereby recuse myself from this matter,” he said in a statement filed with the IUB Wednesday (embedded below). “I will not participate in any way in this matter, including but not limited to discussing the matter with agency staff or other Board members; attending any closed session meetings relating to the matter; participating, voting, or commenting in open session meetings related to this matter; and reviewing any files or documents relating to the matter prior to the posting of the documents to the Board’s electronic filing system.”

On May 16, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against a motion from Dakota Access to dismiss a lawsuit against the IUB filed by landowners and the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club alleging that the board improperly approved the use of eminent domain for the project in violation of private property rights. Pipeline opponents noticed that the ruling (also embedded below) included the granting of a request from Lozier to withdraw as MAIN’s legal counsel. At the time, Lozier had been serving on the board for just over two weeks.

MAIN’s public relations efforts were headed by DCI Group, which used deceptive tactics including fake Twitter accounts to promote the pipeline and whose past work included spreading misinformation about climate change and doing consulting work for the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity political group.

Last Friday, before submitting his recusal statement, Lozier abstained from a board vote ordering Dakota Access to file updated insurance documents that were overdue.

Branstad’s appointment of Lozier renewed questions from pipeline opponents about his supposed neutrality concerning the Dakota Access pipeline’s approval. Last September, several months after the IUB approved the project, Branstad told reporters it would be “laughable” to suggest that he played a role in the board’s approval of the pipeline. He also claimed there was “probably no guy that Big Oil hates more than me,” despite his close alliance with Rick Perry, a former board member of Dakota Access parent corporation Energy Transfer Partners who arranged a 2013 fundraiser for Branstad at which he took in tens of thousands of dollars from deep-pocketed oil industry executives.

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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.