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Pipeline Opponents Headed Back To District Court

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

A group of landowners failed in their request of an emergency stay from the Iowa Utilities Board in a three-to-zero vote in an attempt to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline from beginning on their properties. The group contends that since the trenching of the pipeline is imminent, their constitutional right to due process hinges on the success of an emergency stay.

This ruling essentially kicks the decision back to Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell who told the landowners Monday they first had to seek relief from the IUB before petitioning the district court.

The IUB says it rejected the petitioners' motion for stay based on the fact board members don't believe the appeal will be successful. The board also says the degree to which the petitioners may suffer irreparable harm does not out weigh the harm Dakota Access LLC will suffer if construction is delayed. Furthermore, the board contends a crude oil pipeline benefits the public's interest. 

During the hearing, Dakota Access's attorney Bret Dublinske says the landowners "sat on their rights," and created the need for an emergency motion.

"Procedural everything they've done is wrong, they've been told that repeatedly," Dublinske says. "They cannot continue to get extra bites of the apple. That violates our due process." 

IUB chairwoman Geri Huser agrees with Dublinske that landowners had been tardy in their objections.  

"We recognize that the petitioners may be in a difficult timing situation here, but any apparent emergency that may exist was created by the petitions own actions and their own decisions," Huser says.

The landowners argue that due to limited financial resources and the spring planting season, they were caught off guard by the speed of the condemnation hearings. 

"You've got to understand that following (the board's approval of the pipeline) there began at that moment a statewide blitz on the landowners," says attorney Bill Hannigan, who represents the landowners. 

In their appeal, the landowners argue it's not within the IUB's jurisdiction to grant Dakota Access the right of eminent domain because pipeline safety is regulated by the federal government. They also contend Dakota Access is a private enterprise and not a utility since crude oil is neither produced nor refined in Iowa. 

The board did vote two-to-one to allow a temporary stay on pipeline-construction to remain intact on the properties in question until 9 a.m. Monday. This will allow landowners time to seek an emergency stay from the district court. 

Hannigan says his clients will appeal any decision in favor of the pipeline to the state supreme court.

Dakota Access is a subsidiary of the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline route will transport crude oil approximately 1,172 miles from North Dakota's Bakken and Three Forks oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa, into Illinois.