Nine Iowa farmers and landowners were in court in Des Moines last week to challenge the granting of eminent domain powers to Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s owners.
Ed Fallon, state director of BOLD Iowa, says the case has national implications. “This case is much bigger than the pipeline,” Fallon says. “If Dakota Access prevails, they’ll be setting the precedent and sending the message that it’s okay for government to turn anybody’s land over to any private entity because you can always try to define it as in the public necessity.”
Whatever the ruling from the Polk County District judge, Fallon says both sides will likely appeal if the decision goes against them. He says there’s a lot at stake for Iowa landowners. “If this goes the wrong way for the landowners and farmers, there’s nothing to stop other pipeline companies or the same ones from coming in and trying to run additional pipelines and then, they’ll have a stronger argument because a precedent will be set,” Fallon says. “We feel strongly that the precedent that needs to be set from this lawsuit is that eminent domain for private gain is not acceptable.”
Fallon says the ideal ruling would force the company to remove the pipeline and restore the land across all 18 Iowa counties. “The best case scenario is that the judge says, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Iowa code does say that you can’t use eminent domain for a private purpose,’ and the judge will agree this is a private purpose, not in the public necessity. If that is his ruling, then perhaps he will take the next step and say the pipeline company should not have put this in the ground and they’ve gotta’ take it out.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has halted the pipeline in North Dakota, but the other states involved have already approved it, including South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)