The Iowa landowners who lost a court battle last week over the Dakota Access oil pipeline are preparing for the next stage in their legal war.
An Iowa District Court judge ruled the Iowa Utilities Board acted properly in using eminent domain for the pipeline. Des Moines attorney Bill Hanigan, who represents the 14 landowners, says they’ll take the case next to Iowa’s highest court.
“We’re planning and have long planned to appeal this,” Hanigan says. “We believe the venue where we finally get our day in court, where the little guy finally has a chance to win, we’ve always thought we have to get to the Iowa Supreme Court, which is the next step.” Hanigan says he’ll continue arguing the pipeline, built by Energy Transfer Partners, was not worthy of eminent domain.
“The question really boils down to whether Dakota Access is serving a public use,” Hanigan says. “It’s in the Bill of Rights, the 5th Amendment. The Bill of Rights requires that for the government to take your land, it has to be for a public use.” He claims the private company is -not-serving a public use by piping oil across Iowa, in his words, for export to foreign countries. Hanigan says he’s optimistic about their chances before the state’s high court.
“This thing doesn’t have oil going through it yet but it will before we get a decision out of the Iowa Supreme Court,” Hanigan says. “People ask, so what’s the point? The point is, if eminent domain was improper, then all of the condemnation easements are invalid. If the condemnation easements are invalid, then that pipeline and all of the crude oil in it is trespassing.”
Hanigan says Iowa and federal law protects landowners from eminent domain because, in their view, Dakota Access is a private, interstate pipeline and not a public utility. The $3.8 billion pipeline cuts across 18 Iowa counties and overall runs some 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois.
(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)