Petition Drive Launched Against Proposed Iowa Pipeline

By Rod Boshart, Gazette Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES, Iowa — A citizens’ action network has started a petition drive urging Gov. Terry Branstad to reject a proposed crude oil pipeline that would stretch diagonally across Iowa with planned operation to begin by the end of 2016.

Members of Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) launched a petition and Facebook page this week calling on Branstad to use his administration’s authority under Iowa law to stop the pipeline from being built.

The group’s effort comes after Branstad met July 22 with Greg Brazaitis, chief compliance officer with Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company which has proposed the project. A private meeting also was held Tuesday in which representatives of Energy Transfer Partners discussed Iowa’s pipeline siting process with state officials.

“The governor still is learning more about the proposal as it still is in its infancy,” said Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers. “As such, the governor has not taken a formal position, either in favor or against, the proposed pipeline. The state of Iowa has a system in place for companies wishing to build such pipelines, and the governor has confidence in the process.”

The Dallas-based firm recently announced it plans to have a 1,100-mile-long crude oil pipeline crossing through four states, running diagonally through 17 Iowa counties from the state’s northwestern-most county to the southeast. The proposed pipeline would stretch from the Bakken supply area in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill.

“It always makes us a little bit nervous when regulatory agencies and out-of-state Fortune 500 corporations are having closed-door, private meetings among themselves,” said CCI spokesman David Goodner.

Rob Hillesland, information specialist for the Iowa Utilities Board, confirmed that an informal meeting took place involving representatives of the company and IUB staff, but no board members.

“I was told there weren’t any handouts or any presentations,” said Hillesland, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s nothing formally filed and there’s no docket or case numbers for that at this point in time and there won’t be until something is filed.”

Hillesland also confirmed that IUB chairwoman Libby Jacobs, via email, briefed a member of Branstad’s staff this month about the pipeline siting process and conveyed to him that the Iowa Utilities Board was putting together a short summary of the process, which was later provided as well.

During a news conference earlier this month, Branstad — who supports building the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada through U.S. states west of Iowa — told reporters he does not plan to take a position on a proposed crude oil pipeline that would stretch diagonally across Iowa until he has more information about the project.

“I want to learn more about it and I want to make sure that the procedures are appropriately followed,” he said at the time. He noted there is an extensive IUB process that has to be followed before any pipeline would be approved, including determining whether the project is economically feasible and working with all farmers and property owners that would be affected along the yet-to-be-finalized Iowa route.

To put a pipeline on private property, Energy Transfer Partners must obtain the necessary rights from the landowner through voluntary easement or eminent domain as well as provide a land restoration plan, showing how restoration laws will be met. It also will have to hold informational meetings for the public in each of the 17 counties the pipeline could affect before a petition and review process begins.

CCI members said the Iowa Code indicates that to grant a permit the Iowa Utilities Board must determine that “the proposed services will promote the public convenience and necessity” and may impose “terms, conditions, and restrictions as to location and route.” Since the agency is part of the executive branch with members appointed by the governor, CCI members say Branstad should use his administration’s authority to determine the pipeline is not in the public interest and reject it.

“At the end of the day, this issue is laid at the feet of the governor,” said Goodner. “We’re calling on Gov. Branstad to stand up for clean water, stand up for property rights and do the right thing and deny this pipeline, make sure this pipeline does not to through.”

According to the CCI petition, which Goodner said drew over 300 signatures in less than two days, “the Iowa Bakken Oil Pipeline will be a climate disaster. Building it could harm Iowa’s water quality, contribute to catastrophic climate change, and threaten the property rights of everyday Iowans across the state.”

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@sourcemedia.net

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