Pipeline Opponents Request IUB Revoke Dakota Access Permit

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A march for indigenous rights at the Women's March on Washington January 21, the day after President Trump's inauguration. Photo: Gavin Aronsen/Iowa Informer

Opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa are seizing on a federal district court ruling yesterday in Washington DC to request that the Iowa Utilities Board revoke the permit it granted to the crude oil pipeline company in April 2016.

On Wednesday, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion (embedded below) in favor of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, which is suing the US Army Corps of Engineers over its approval of the pipeline, stating that “the Court agrees that it [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.” The ruling has not halted operation of the pipeline, which began service June 1, but requires the Corps to revisit its environmental review process that led to its issuance of a permit for the project.

Today, the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club and the Science and Environmental Health Network, which is headed by Ames-based attorney Carolyn Raffensperger, filed a motion with the Iowa Utilities Board (also embedded below) requesting that it revoke the permit it granted Dakota Access in the state and shut down the pipeline. The groups are arguing that, with the federal permit the Corps granted in dispute, there is no basis for the IUB’s decision that the pipeline meets the requirements of “public convenience and necessity.”

“The house of cards built by Dakota Access has come tumbling down,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “The Iowa Utilities Board granted a permit to Dakota Access on the condition that it obtain all of the necessary permits, chief among them the permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers. There is no federal permit. The IUB must shut this pipeline down.”

The district court ruling was issued by James Boesberg, the same judge who last fall refused to grant the Standing Rock Tribe an injunction to halt the pipeline’s construction before the Obama administration stepped in to temporarily stop construction of a portion of the pipeline that now runs underneath Lake Oahe near the tribe’s reservation. President Trump reversed the decision shortly after his inauguration, fast-tracking the project’s completion.

Previously, Raffensperger and other pipeline foes requested that the IUB shut down the pipeline because Dakota Access was overdue in filing updated insurance documents showing that it was in compliance with permitting requirements. With the board’s newest member, Richard Lozier, abstaining because of his prior legal work in support of the project, the board ordered that Dakota Access file updated documentation by June 13. It did, showing that it has a $50 million insurance policy covering the pipeline’s entire route.

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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.