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After Eminent Domain Rights Granted, Landowners Continue to Fight Bakken Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline will cut through 18 Iowa counties

Pipeline developer Dakota Access, the subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer partners has been granted eminent domain powers by the Iowa Utilities Board in order to build the Bakken pipeline, an interstate crude oil pipeline that would cut diagonally across the state for 343 miles. It’s the first interstate pipeline that could be built in the state in 15 years.

A handful of Iowa landowners along the route are continuing to fight to keep the pipeline from cutting through their land. Pam Alexander owns a farm in Mahaksa County with her family and has yet to sign an easement. She says her land isn't for sale, but she's considering signing because she doesn't want to see the land taken through eminent domain. 

"I don’t own this land by myself, so we’re still trying to decide where we’re going to go with this. We could sign the easement they sent us, or we could go eminent domain," she says. 

"I think it’s going to be disastrous for our agricultural land. The state of Iowa’s water is at risk, our land is at risk, and it’s going to be a mess if this thing leaks. I would hate to be responsible for that."

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Alexander and Dick Lamb, who owns a farm near Ames. He and his attorney, Bill Hanigan of Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines, are appealing the decision by the Iowa Utilities Board to grant eminent domain. 

Tyler Priest, an associate professor of history at the University of Iowa, and Darrell Hanson, former board member of the Iowa Utilities Board and a former state lawmaker, also join the conversation. 

Priest says that when it comes to transporting the type of oil that's being extracted in North Dakota at the Bakken oil fields, it's much safer to transport it by pipeline than by rail. 

"This is a different kind of oil. It’s a light, sweet oil," he explains. "Light oil tends to be more volatile and has more flammable gases, so if a train derails, and there are sparks, you can easily have an explosion."

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River