Judge denies Iowa landowners’ request to halt pipeline work

Farm Forum

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A district court judge on Aug. 22 denied a request by Iowa landowners to immediately halt construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline on 15 parcels of their land, saying they must first talk to state regulators.

A state law written in 1998 says the Iowa Utilities Board must consider such a request before the court can weigh in, District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell said in his order. The landowners have sued, saying the board does not have the authority to give Texas oil company Dakota Access the right to forcefully condemn private farmland under eminent domain.

The landowners want to stop Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, from digging trenches on their land until the courts can determine whether the board’s application of eminent domain is legal. The planned 1,168-mile pipeline would cut through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“It’s disappointing, but not really unexpected,” landowner Richard Lamb said of the judge’s decision.

Crops have been cut down on Lamb’s land near Boone in central Iowa to make way for the pipeline. The next step is grading, which is expected to begin in week or two, and trenching after that.

The company argued in court on Aug. 19 that if the board or the court grants the landowners’ motion to stop work it would be required to move construction crews and equipment around the 15 parcels at a cost of more than $500,000 for each move.

The attorney for the landowners, Bill Hannigan, said the request for an emergency stay was filed with the board on Aug. 22 in the afternoon.

“Pipeline construction is moving quickly, and our clients hope to have an immediate decision from the board,” he said in a statement.

He added it will be refiled with the court if it’s rejected. He said the plan is to appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court if necessary.

A spokeswoman for Dakota Access said the company will allow the legal system to work and continue with construction.