The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which stretches diagonally across the state, and the Iowa Utilities Board.
Landowners accuse the state of violating their constitutional rights when it allowed the oil pipeline to pass through their property. Attorney William Hanigan argued the pipeline is not for “public use,” so it does not meet the constitutional standard for the state to seize property through eminent domain.
“I think that [the Iowa Utilities Board] equated public convenience with public use, which we think is way off,” Hanigan said.
An attorney for Dakota Access said Iowa Code gives crude oil pipelines the right to eminent domain.
“There’s a regulatory body that has been given the authority by the legislature to determine the public convenience and necessity, and there’s evidence that it’s a public as opposed to a private use,” Bret Dublinske said.
He added case law indicates “public use” can include things that very few people might be able to use.
“That’s a sweeping proposition,” said Justice Brent Appel. “It seems to me under your argument, whenever the state decides there’s some remote and incidental benefit, they can come and take your property.”
“That is not our position,” Dublinske said.
After the court proceedings, plaintiff Dick Lamb talked about his farm in Boone County. He said the pipeline goes through a mile of his land, and it left damage that will last for decades.
“They took our land by force. We had no choice. We fought it every step of the way,” Lamb said. “But the state of Iowa, with the police power, took our land from us. So we hope now we will finally see justice.”
The landowners want a decision that says the pipeline, oil flowing through it, and workers are trespassing on their property. The Iowa Utilities Board wants the court to affirm its approval of the pipeline.
A decision could take months.