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Dakota Access Could Double Pipeline Capacity If Utilities Board Approves

Bakken oil fields in the winter.
Geof Wilson
Bakken oil fields in the winter.

Dakota Access wants to nearly double the amount of oil flowing through its pipeline across Iowa, but first the Iowa Utilities Board must approve an amendment to the company’s pipeline permit.

If the changes are approved, Dakota Access would upgrade its pumping station near the central Iowa town of Cambridge. According to the company, adding higher volume pumps would boost the capacity of the pipeline from 570,000 barrels per day to as much as 1.1 million. The company is making similar requests in other states to install new pumping equipment.

In its application, Dakota Access said increasing the pipeline’s capacity is safer than moving more oil out of the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota by train, but Ed Fallon of the environmental group Bold Iowa said the IUB should gather more information.

“There’s real concern about what that means in terms of corroding the pipeline and what that means in terms of an eventual spill or leak,” Fallon said. “There’ll be that much more oil that will flow onto the land or potentially into our water system.”

Fallon said the board should also consider how much increasing the pipeline’s flow would add to carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

A public hearing is normally part of the process of changing a pipeline permit, but Dakota Access is asking the Iowa Utilities Board to waive that requirement. According to an IUB spokesperson, there is no specific deadline for the board to make a decision on the hearing or the permit amendment.

The 30-inch Dakota Access Pipeline carries oil from western North Dakota to a pipeline hub in Patoka, Illinois. The route covers 346 miles in Iowa from Lyon County northwest to Lee County in southeastern Iowa.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa