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Another office calls for pipeline scrutiny

By Staff | Jun 2, 2016

PIPES FOR THE PROPOSED Dakota Access oil pipeline that will stretch from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois are stacked at a staging area in Worthing, S.D. Construction on the pipeline is now underway in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois, three of the four states that will carry the oil from western North Dakota. The pipeline also will cross Iowa, but regulators there have declined to act quickly on a request to allow Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to begin construction in that state.

A state archeological official has called for a more indepth assessment of a proposed oil pipeline in Iowa.

Native American tribes have not been sufficiently consulted on the $3.8 billion oil pipeline, according to Glenn Storey, chair of the Office of the State Archeologist Advisory Committee.

“We respectfully would like to emphasize that none of the key federal agencies to date have been in direct consultation with the affected Native Nations/Tribes in Iowa,” Storey wrote on behalf of the committee. “Furthermore, the company’s consultations with the State Archeologist and other bodies with oversight of cultural patrimony has been extremely unsatisfactory.”

The advisory committee is a council overseeing the work of the state archeologist, and has Native American constituency representation.

The letter was addressed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which must issue approvals for the pipeline where it crosses federal waterways, including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

It was also filed with the Iowa Utilities Board, the quasijudicial body which issued a permit for the pipeline in Iowa on April 8.

The Houston-based company wants to build the pipeline – designed to carry a half-million barrels of oil a day – from northwest North Dakota to a storage facility in south central Illinois. Construction has begun in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois.

Preconstruction notices – PCNs – from the USACE are the only thing preventing construction from beginning on the route in Iowa.

Dakota Access has argued it needed to begin last week to ensure construction would be limited to one growing season.

Storey wrote that the proposed pipeline route cuts through Native American ancestral lands with religious and cultural significance.

“We strongly urge the Corps of Engineers to conduct a thorough assessment, in collaboration with all affected Tribal communities, and with the requisite agencies overseeing mitigation, to address the preservation of lands with cultural, religious and archaeological significance,” he said.

He also urged the Corps to undertake an environmental assessment.

The advisory committee’s requests come after an announcement Friday that discovery of a possible Native American archeological site in northwest Iowa could further delay the pipeline.

If confirmed, the finding could result in relocation of the pipeline, Iowa State Archaeologist John Doershuk told The Associated Press last week. He said details should start falling into place by this week, “as we confirm site characteristics and ownership/jurisdiction, as well as position relative to the planned pipeline construction activities.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation also have all asked the Corps to more carefully review and revise its preliminary plan for the pipeline.

When issuing the permit, the IUB required PCNs from the Corps be filed with the board before construction could begin, as originally agreed to by Dakota Access.

The company has said it initially thought PCNs would all be filed by January 2016. Instead, the Corps has said permits for the Iowa leg of the project are 60 to 120 days away.

Dakota Access said there are about 64 PCNs to be filed in Iowa, representing only 2.5 percent of the 346-mile route.

The IUB has not yet responded to requests to begin construction immediately.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also filed an amicus brief with the IUB on May 12, urging the IUB not to approve construction until after PCNs are filed.

“The pipeline is currently facing regulatory delays and potential legal challenges in numerous areas along its nearly 1,200-mile length,” the tribe wrote. “Individually and collectively, these challenges raise the question of whether the current proposed route, and even the pipeline itself, remain viable. Starting construction in the face of this uncertainty would be harmful to landowners.”

If construction begins right up to the areas that require PCNs, this would put improper pressure on federal authorities to approve them, in spite of other concerns, the tribe wrote.

“Dakota Access took an enormous gamble by planning for construction to begin in May of 2016 without providing sufficient time for the federal regulatory process to be completed,” it wrote. “Dakota Access now seeks to double down on that bad bet by building isolated segments of the pipeline up to and around the boundaries of at least 64 different federal jurisdictional areas in the state of Iowa. It will then presumably leverage the fact of that partial construction to push for the remaining approvals, despite the fact that the federal process remains hotly contested.”

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