Board overseeing permit for proposed oil pipeline in Iowa receives 3,700 objections to project

IndustriesAssociated Press

Among the top concerns about a proposed oil pipeline across Iowa is whether a private company should be able to access private land for its construction, according to a state board that says it's received roughly 3,700 objections to the project.

The Iowa Utilities Board said in a report filed Friday that the objections started coming in electronically shortly after plans for the pipeline became public in November. The total includes submissions through the end of July, though the board is still accepting them.

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Among the top objections, the board said, was the request for eminent domain rights by Dakota Access LLC. That would allow the company to use private land for the pipeline's construction despite opposition from landowners. Critics argue that such access should be limited to public utilities that serve a public purpose.

The pipeline would transport crude oil daily from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution center in Illinois. The Iowa Utilities Board is expected to rule on the pipeline's future before the end of the year.

Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, did not immediately return a message Monday. But she said earlier this month that the company is in discussions with landowners over voluntary easements. She also said greater access to domestically produced crude oil benefits all Americans regardless of where they live.

The board also received about 560 letters of support for the pipeline, with the potential jobs generated from the pipeline's construction among the top reasons for it.

"We demand, and deliver, a safe workplace. We are committed to operating with minimal disruption ... to landowners. And most importantly, we want this project done right, because we live here too," read one letter of support that the board said was signed by a member of an Iowa local of Laborers' International Union of North America.

Other reasons people cited for opposing the project included the pipeline's potential impact on the environment.

"Spills on land would degrade soil quality and projected yields for farmers," said one letter written in March.

There were requests for an environmental impact study, though the board noted that such a study was not required to secure a permit to build a pipeline in Iowa. An italicized portion from Don Stursma, head of safety and engineering for the board, recommended that Dakota Access file documentation on the status of any permits required from environmental agencies.

The report said the objections include more than 2,600 statements submitted in July by several groups. There were also submissions from students at Brody Middle School in Des Moines; 37 objecting to the project and 11 supporting it.