The Supreme Court of Iowa ruled on May 31, 2019 that the Dakota Access Pipeline is a valid use of eminent domain in the State of Iowa.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is set to be one of the largest pipelines in North America, running from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to reach a refinery in Illinois.  The pipeline has been subject to a significant amount of controversy for its size and environmental impact as well as its location running through Indian Reservations.

The current case was brought by landowners in Iowa who argued that the pipeline cannot be a valid use of the Takings Clause because it is neither taking on nor offloading oil in Iowa.  The landowners additionally argued that the Dakota Access company is not a common-carrier from which they can benefit.  The landowners hoped to enjoin the government from continuing the pipeline’s construction on their land.  (Jurist, June 3, 2019).

The Court stated,

“While the pipeline is undeniably intended to return profits to its owners, the record indicates that it also provides public benefits in the form of cheaper and safer transportation of oil, which in a competitive marketplace results in lower prices for petroleum products,” Mansfield wrote.

The ruling affirms a 2017 ruling by Polk County District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell, who found that the pipeline’s builders acted lawfully in using Iowa’s eminent domain laws to seize private land.  

The 1,172-mile pipeline was completed in 2017.  It transports about 470,000 barrels of crude oil each day from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to a distribution hub in Patoka, Illinois, cutting through 18 Iowa counties along the way.

The pipeline, built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, was met with protests up and down the four-state route, sparking a cultural movement among environmentalists and indigenous tribes. 

On January 24, 2017, this blog reported that President Trump signed an Executive Order reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline Projects. 

When he signed the Order, Mr. Trump recited that the pipeline would bring 28,000 construction jobs.  But according to the New York Times, “studies showed that the pipeline would not have a momentous impact on jobs.”  New York Times, January 24, 2017.  The President also indicated that he would renegotiate the terms with the pipelines.

The President also seemed to limit approval on the use by pipeline construction companies on pipe manufactured in America. 

Posted in Dakota Access Pipeline, Pipeline Takings, Takings Clause, Uncategorized
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