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Farmers file suit over pipeline

By Staff | Aug 6, 2015

jmajor@messengernews.net

CHEROKEE – Three landowners filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Utilities Board this week questioning its authority, to grant eminent domain for the planned 1,134-mile Dakota Access pipeline.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the Cherokee County District Court, was filed on behalf of Marian D. Johnson, of Cherokee County; Brent Jesse, of Buena Vista County; and Richard Lamb, who owns land in Boone County.

In the Fort Dodge region, the pipeline would cross less than a mile in far northeast Sac County. It would cross about 31 miles in Calhoun County and about 19 miles in Webster County.

Dakota Access plans to use eminent domain to access Iowa landowner’s property for the pipeline, according to the lawsuit.

“Petitioners … are led to believe that if they do not immediately consent to an easement that the Respondent (IUB) will permit the private developer to utilize eminent domain and condemn the Petitioners’ agricultural land for its hazardous liquid interstate pipeline,” the lawsuit states.

When eminent domain is used, an independent panel would determine the value of the property.

The company would then pay the landowner that amount and take ownership of the property.

The landowners are represented by Bill Hanigan, of Davis Brown Law Firm, and Richard Cook, of Herrick, Ary, Cook, Cook, Cook & Cook.

“Our Clients are rightfully upset. This is their land,” said Cook in a prepared statement. “And a Texas company just gets to come here and take it?

“That is not what the Legislature had in mind.”

The underground pipeline would carry 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and on to Illinois, according to Davis Brown.

“Out-of-state companies shouldn’t be allowed to use Iowa law to take farmland from Iowans and install a hazardous pipeline and then not be subject to our laws about safety,” Hanigan said in the same statement.

Last summer, Dakota Access contacted Iowa landowners with property in the path of the proposed pipeline, including the plaintiffs. They requested meetings to take soil samples and to survey property.

The proposed pipeline would affect 18 Iowa counties and hundreds of Iowa landowners.

A spokeswoman for the company has previously said the company has to date purchased easements from nearly 60 percent of landowners.

“Petitioners require clarity from the court as to whether they ultimately have a choice – are they negotiating with the interstate pipeline company at arm’s length, or are the threats of eminent domain substantiated and therefore the petitioners must ultimately acquiesce,” according to the lawsuit.

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