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Oil Pipeline Across Iowa Approved

Dakota Access
The Dakota Access pipeline will pass through 18 Iowa counties.

The Iowa Utilities Board has voted 3-0 to approve an oil pipeline across the state. Dakota Access had sought permission for the pipeline, which will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.  The line will run for nearly 350 miles through 18 Iowa counties, entering the state in the northwest corner, and exiting in the southeast.

In its decision, the IUB says the permit for the pipeline will only be given once Dakota Access meets several conditions the board outlined today.  They include obtaining a $25 million liability insurance policy, guarantee that its parent company will remedy damages resulting from any spill or leak, and file a revised Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan.

The board said the public benefits of the pipeline outweigh the private and public costs involved.  It said benefits include the safety of transporting crude oil by pipeline compared with alternative methods, and the jobs that will be created during the construction and operation of the pipeline.

"I'm very, very pleased with the board's decision," says Chad Carter, a  business agent and vice-president with Operating Engineers Local 234 in Des Moines. "This will probably provide 300-to-400 jobs for [our] members..."

Pipeline opponents say they'll continue to fight the project.  Environmentalist Donnielle Wanatee of Tama County says a leak or a spill along the pipeline could harm water quality for generations.

"This don't benefit us," she says. "It's almost like they just pimped out Iowa just to have this oil go through us."

Attorney Bill Hanigan, who represents several landowners along the pipeline's proposed route, also says the assurances given by the utilities board that farmers and landowners along the route will not suffer harm do not go far enough. Hanigan says he will appeal the board's decision in court, arguing the board misapplied a 2006 law he says was passed specifically to protect Iowa farmland.

Hanigan filed suit last summer on behalf of three landowners in Boone County hoping to stop the pipeline. The suit was dismissed in District Court.

Also today, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said it had granted a permit for the Dakota Access project to cross publicly-owned land:  the Big Sioux River Complex Wildlife Management Area in Lyon County, as well as borings for the pipeline under the Big Sioux River in Lyon County, the Des Moines River in Boone County, and the Mississippi River in Lee County.  The permit also needs approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Iowa is the last of four states along the pipeline's proposed route to approve the project.

Michael Leland is IPR's News Director