Plans for Bakken pipeline at standstill until Iowa votes


Courtesy of

Dakota Access Pipeline Map

Alex Connor

The Bakken pipeline, otherwise known as the Dakota Access Pipeline Project, is a pipeline that would extend 1,168 miles across a four-state region to ultimately carry North Dakota crude oil from the Bakken oil reserves to Patoka, Ill.

Dakota Access LLC., a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company, LLC., first proposed the pipeline, which will enable domestically-produced light sweet crude oil to travel from North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, ending in Illinois, to help reduce the current use of rail and truck transportation that is currently used to move the oil.

The project also aims to reach “major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible matter,” according to the Dakota Access website.

The pipeline, if approved in all four states, is projected to be operational by the end of 2016. The pipeline has currently been approved in three states: South Dakota, Illinois and most recently in a unanimous vote, North Dakota.

The pipeline is intended to transport roughly 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day and will ultimately cost an upward of $3.8 billion in all four states, $1.04 billion in Iowa alone, said Lisa Dillinger, who is part of the media relations team for Dakota Access.

“Shippers will be able to access multiple markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner,” Dillinger said.

The decision as to whether the pipeline will be approved in Iowa falls into the hands of the Iowa Utilities Board, IUB, which consists of three members appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Geri Huser, Elizabeth Jacobs and Nick Wagner are currently deciding on the pipeline and it is estimated that they will announce their decision by the end of the first quarter of this year.

“We are pleased with the decisions by the Illinois Commerce Commission and the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission,” Dillinger said. “And [we] look forward to continuing to working with the Iowa Utilities Board to achieve a similar outcome.”

If approved in Iowa, the pipeline will cut diagonally across the state throughout the following counties: Lyon, Sioux, O’Brien, Cherokee, Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, Webster, Boone, Story, Polk, Jasper, Mahaska, Keokuk, Wapello, Jefferson, Van Buren and Lee.

South Dakota, which was the first state to approve the pipeline, outlined that the construction of the 270-mile section of the pipeline is targeted to begin in early 2016.

The permit for the pipeline was approved by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission with a 2-1 vote.

Beyond the construction permit granted by the state, local and state laws must be abided by, which means that the Energy Transfer Partners, ETP, must “submit quarterly reports, hire a liaison officer to handle landowner disputes and concerns, in addition to hiring an independent third party to ensure compliance with the permit,” according to the Bakken website.

What does the pipeline mean economically?

The pipeline is estimated to create between 8,000 and 12,000 local jobs during its construction, and 2,000 to 4,000 jobs in Iowa alone.

The pipeline will require “millions of hours of labor” and will put “welders, mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators and others within the heavy construction industry to work,” according to the Dakota Access Pipeline website.

During the construction phases, the pipeline will generate millions in state and local revenues, along with producing $129 million annually in income and property taxes. It is also estimated to produce $50 million annually in property taxes and approximately $74 million in sales taxes to all four states.

The money generated will be used toward services for schools, roads, emergency services and more, according to Dakota Access.

“Once the pipeline is in service, Dakota Access Pipeline will make an annual property tax payment to the traversed counties each year,” Dillinger said. “The estimated property tax to be paid in Iowa its first year in operation is $27 million.”

She also mentioned that in Iowa, the Dakota Access Pipeline will pay an estimated $33 million in sales tax revenue to the state during construction and about $2 million in local sales taxes.

“It’s going to constantly bring jobs to the area,” said Brittany Gaura, a member of ISU College Republicans who is in favor of the pipeline.


Intended to be buried about two feet below the ground, the pipeline poses a few issues environmentally through soil and crop yields if the pipeline were to burst.

Dakota Access will inspect each and every weld that joins each section of pipe both visually and with X-rays. It also plans to do routine ground and aerial leak inspections of the pipeline at minimum 26 times per year.

It also promises to monitor pipeline pressures 24/7 by a pipeline control center, and educate the public by hosting an emergency response drill with its employees and local emergency responders along the pipeline route.

Rivka Fidel, a postdoc research associate in agronomy and part of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, has some concerns with what Dakota Access is saying, however, especially with the soil.

“When a pipeline is buried in the ground, the soil has to be physically moved out of the way and then replaced back on top of and around the pipeline,” Fidel outlined in a statement during hearings in November for the pipeline. “Installing the pipeline also requires a lot of heavy machinery, which presses down on the soil.”

Fidel said that because Iowa is a predominantly agricultural state, producing more than $13 billion in corn and soybeans alone in 2014, that “all of that agriculture, all of those billions of dollars, are thanks to the quality of our soil.”

If the oil were to spill, crops wouldn’t be able to grow for years to come, Fidel said.

“In addition to containing hazardous hydrocarbons that threaten the health of farmers and soil microbes alike, oil contamination reduces nitrogen available to plants and adversely affects water flow,” Fidel said.

Gaura, however, disagrees and believes that the ETP is taking the right steps to keep the environment safe during the pipeline construction and thereafter.

“They’ve definitely taken measures to make sure the environment is protected,” Gaura said.

Land acquired

If the pipeline gets approved in Iowa, Dakota Access has already secured voluntary easement agreements on 78 percent of properties along the route in Iowa, Dillinger said.

“Overall, Dakota Access has executed easement agreements on 85 percent of the properties across the entire four-state route,” Dillinger said.

It has been estimated that the company will make about $60 million in easement payments to the Iowa property owners for the infringement on their land.

If the farmer doesn’t make an agreement with Dakota Access for voluntary easements, the IUB could be asked to make use of eminent domain, which is the right of a government to expropriate private property for public use, as long as the owner is properly compensated.

“We’re so dependent on energy and different energy sources, and this is kind of a better way,” Gaura said. “Instead of always importing our energy, we can keep it local.”