The Iowa Utilities Board has issued a schedule of deadlines for the controversial Bakken oil pipeline which would criss-cross the state from northwest to southeast.
The schedule indicates the board will decide in December or January whether the project may proceed. Lawmakers adjourned the 2015 legislative session without passing a bill that would have made it harder for pipeline developers to forcibly acquire land by eminent domain.
A group called the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance had lobbied for the bill and the group’s president, Carolyn Sheridan, says they’re hoping the legislature revisits the issue in 2016.
“We thought we gained a lot of momentum,” Sheridan says. “We have a good deal of legislative support from legislators across the state.” The utilities board has set an August 10th deadline for the company to complete its filings to seize property through eminent domain.
A public hearing on the oil pipeline project will be held in late November or early December, at a location that will be determined later. Sheridan’s group is also opposed to the Rock Island Clean Line, a project that would carry wind power out of Iowa to more urban areas to the east.
“We, of course, will look to next session, but right now we need to get busy and do what we were doing anyway and that’s to inform people and to maintain with the Iowa Utilities Board that eminent domain should not be used at this level.”
Critics say state officials should not grant the projects eminent domain authority, since these are for-profit endeavors that will not yield a direct public benefit to Iowans. Supporters of the projects say thousands of good-paying temporary jobs will be created and both projects aim to increase U.S. energy production, reducing dependence on foreign sources.
In anticipation of a go-ahead from the Utilities Board, three Iowa counties have hired engineers to oversee installation of the oil pipeline and a contractor has begun delivering pipe to Jasper County.
(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)