Governor Terry Branstad says he needs to learn more about a proposal pipeline that would cut diagonally through Iowa before he decides whether to support or oppose the plan. The pipeline would carry crude oil from North Dakota through 17 Iowa counties, en route to Illinois.
“There’s a lot of concern about transporting that by train and doing it by pipeline would be safer and more economical, but there is a very extensive process that has to be utilized for approval of any pipeline,” Branstad says.
The Iowa Utilities Board will conduct a review of the proposal. Jack Hatch, Branstad’s Democratic opponent, questions whether the pipeline would be the best use of prime Iowa farmland. Hatch challenged the Branstad Administration to conduct an open review process, so the pipeline wouldn’t be “jammed down our throats by bureaucrats, lobbyists and lawyer.”
Branstad, who describes himself as neutral on the proposed Bakken Pipeline, supports construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline which would ultimately carry Canadian crude oil to Texas, but the route does not cut through Iowa.
“Growing up on a farm in Iowa, I know that if you put a pipeline through you also have a number of issues to deal with including farm tile lines and things like that, crossing rivers and all of that kind of stuff and so those are all things we need to learn about on this new proposal,” Branstad says. “Very different from the Keystone pipeline which mainly goes through the western states where they don’t have as intensive agriculture.”
If state regulators approve construction of a pipeline through Iowa to ship crude oil from North Dakota, the company building the project would be able to use eminent domain to seize property along the route. Branstad says there are “legitimate reasons” for eminent domain to be used for projects with a public purpose, like a pipeline, but he admits it’s a “controversial subject.”
“I think it should be used only in very limited circumstances and primarily rights of way should be acquired through negotiations and from willing participants,” Branstad says.
Some environmental activists in Iowa have already vowed to fight the proposed pipeline.
Some landowners in Iowa are fighting a high-voltage power line that would carry electricity from Iowa wind turbines to consumers in Chicago and other points to the east. A bill that would have given those landowners more tools to fight the project stalled in the legislature this past spring. Developers of the 500-mile Rock Island Clean Line project have charted a preferred route that would start in northwest Iowa’s O’Brien County and would exit on the east side of the state in Scott County, just north of the Quad Cities.
The proposed Bakken Pipeline would begin in western North Dakota, cut through South Dakota and enter the northwest corner of Iowa. It would cross over a thousand miles of Iowa, entering near Sioux Center, then passing between Ames and Ankeny in central Iowa before exiting in southeast Iowa near Keokuk.