This week, a diverse coalition of over 100 organizations has come together to promote the importance of America’s infrastructure. Our national infrastructure has seen better days, but because of efforts like Infrastructure Week, we are now moving forward with many of the critical investments needed for the 21st Century.
Though roads and bridges often come to mind when you first think of infrastructure, they represent only a small piece of the puzzle. A reliable energy supply is a critically important to the American way of life.
To meet this need, America depends on an extensive network of pipelines capable of transporting the energy resources essential to our everyday lives. The ability to heat our homes, power our cars, and enjoy the convenience of a many consumer goods all stems from the availability of the petroleum resources delivered by pipeline infrastructure.
In recent years, the American energy boom has reasserted the importance of the critical pipeline infrastructure necessary to unlocking the full potential of energy independence. Previously untapped domestic oil and gas reserves like the Bakken and Three Forks formations in North Dakota are already redefining our economy, providing a reliable supply of affordable energy to homes and businesses across the country.
While we have made great strides in investing in domestic energy infrastructure, there is still work to be done. Proposed projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will transport oil from the Bakken region to markets around the country via Illinois, are key to ensuring the benefits of American energy are here to stay.
At today’s Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) meeting the Board Members received an update on the progress of permitting for the Dakota Access Pipeline. What remains for the Board to decide is whether or not construction can begin in areas that are under Board jurisdiction even if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not issued a permit for their areas of jurisdiction.
According to coverage in the Des Moines Register, “The state board didn’t set a date to make a decision, but it could meet as soon as Friday to issue an order to approve or deny the Dakota Access request.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still conducting reviews for federal permits on waterway crossings along the 346-miles of the pipeline route that runs through Iowa, but the federal permit areas only account for 2.5 percent of the entire Iowa portion of the route.
It’s imperative that the Board makes this decision to allow construction to begin where the corps does not have jurisdiction, as they already ruled that the project would move forward in Iowa. As we continue to move later into the calendar year, we risk construction delays that could push construction up against the winter season and the first frost. That would make separation of soil much more difficult, a key point of contention during the review process. We urge the IUB to allow Dakota Access to begin construction on private lands so that this pipeline project will not adversely affect our agricultural communities for an extended period of time.
Yesterday the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked the Iowa Utilities Board to block the planned construction start of the Dakota Access Pipeline until all permits are received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, even though the Corps only has jurisdiction over 3% of the entire length of the pipeline.
These types of delays, simply put, are hurtful to our region’s agricultural community. If construction continues to be delayed then farmers will risk inclement late fall weather, which could make continuing construction impossible. That would mean this project, intended to only take one growing season, could be pushed into a second in order to avoid winter construction.
Though these opposition groups state they are attempting to protect the land in reality these last ditch efforts to stop the pipeline, which has already been approved by four states, are actually risking hurting the land. Our coalition believes that the best way to ensure that the land is protected, is to make sure that necessary infrastructure is constructed in a timely manner. Stymying the efforts of the Corps of Engineers by demanding another environmental review is to the detriment of those who live on and work the land where the pipeline will be constructed, and is far too great a price to pay.
Yesterday, Dakota Access Pipeline announced that it has secured voluntary easements with nearly 96 percent of properties along the pipeline’s four-state route. That number was even higher in North and South Dakota where the company revealed that it has successfully reached agreements with 100 percent of landowners. Dakota Access says it will continue to negotiate easements as it prepares to commence construction of the $3.7 billion, 1,168-mile pipeline project.
During construction, Dakota Access will employ upwards of 12,000 skilled tradesmen from union halls around the region with many communities along the pipeline’s route already preparing for the coming economic boon that will accompany the construction phase of the project. Area retailers, hotel and lodging providers, restaurants, and other small businesses will benefit from a spike in purchases while local governments gain additional sales tax revenue. Once completed, the pipeline will continue to generate state property taxes necessary to support schools, hospitals, and other essential services.
To date, the Dakota Access Pipeline has been approved but utility boards and other relevant regulatory agencies in all four states—Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota—along the route. The project is currently awaiting its final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which has jurisdiction of a mere 3.5 percent of the route or approximately 37 miles out of 1,168.
MAIN Coalition Chairman Ed Wiederstein has recently joined other members in calling for an expedient approval of the outstanding permit, including writing to President Obama last month, as noted by the Des Moines Register:
“With a diverse array of backgrounds and interests in our organizations, we are motivated to ensure that this project is authorized and permitted as soon as possible to allow for the opportunity for working people throughout the Midwest to construct this important infrastructure project and to limit the impact on the farmers whose land this pipeline will cross.”
With the number of voluntary easements continuing to grow it is clear that the time has come to make this critical addition to our national energy infrastructure a reality.
MAIN Coalition Chairman Ed Wiederstein sat down with 1550 KIWA-AM radio last week to discuss the Dakota Access Pipeline and what he and fellow coalition members are doing to advocate for its timely construction.
Wiederstein, who signed a joint letter to President Obama on the project last month, said he was pleased with the decision by the Iowa Utilities Board to reject a request for a rehearing on the pipeline permit. “I’m sure it’s just a stalling tactic on the part of the opposition that doesn’t like the pipeline for whatever reason,” Wiederstein said. “Really, let’s get on with it. If it’s going to be built, let’s try to build it in one season. We’re almost to the point now where that might be kind of difficult.”
He went on to discuss the outstanding permit the project is still awaiting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which has jurisdiction of a mere 3.5 percent of the pipeline’s route. “I hope the Army Corps has some common sense because surely they’ve been looking at this well before this point,” Wiederstein said. “I think they know what they want to do but maybe they for-show have to do something but it really needs to get going.” Utility regulators in all four states – Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota – have already approved the project.
Talking about the benefits of the project, Wiederstein said, “It’s an infrastructure project and in essence, it’s a highway. If we were redoing Interstate 80, that would be a great interruption for a lot of people and this is the same way. It’s just as important as Interstate 80 and instead of transporting cars, we’re transporting fuel.”
We invite you to listen to Wiederstein full interview at kiwaradio.com.
This week, MAIN Coalition Chairman Ed Wiederstein and Andy Peterson, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber—a member of the MAIN Coalition—had a series of thoughtful opinion pieces published in a collection of media outlets across the Midwest.
Wiederstein and Peterson, both respected leaders in our local business and agricultural communities, made convincing arguments that partisan politics and special interests have no place in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s criteria-based assessment of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Environmental groups opposed to all forms of energy and infrastructure projects have urged members of the federal government to call into question previous engineering and environmental decisions made by the Army Corps. … But now the Corps is being asked by individuals within the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior to re-review its previous decision, because of the prodding by these special interest groups and despite the fact the decisions already have been made in conjunction with an environmental study from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Furthermore, Wiederstein and Peterson, who were signatories to a recent letter submitted to President Obama on this matter, emphasized that further delays threaten to extend the construction timeline into two growing seasons and hold hostage tens of thousands of jobs. Clint Walker, a member of IUOE Local 234 echoed these concerns in a letter to the editor published in the Newton Daily News, saying:
Iowa’s farmers should have the least impact as possible on their agricultural cycles, regardless if the pipeline crosses their land or not. My brothers and I want to get the job done right the first time, and that means we should be starting work as soon as possible.
Steve McKibben, a resident of Clive, IA, also weighed in, writing in the Des Moines Register that:
If it’s a job that can be done safely in less than a calendar year, then it should be. Delays on this project mean lost revenues for farmers, and that is something we should avoid at all costs.
The mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dates back to the founding of our nation and has provided the framework for landmark infrastructure projects like the Continental Railroad and Golden Gate Bridge. There is no denying the support for the Dakota Access Pipeline in communities across the region despite a vocal minority who would rather dismantle our national institutions than seen any benefit of this critical project.
MAIN Coalition Chairman Ed Wiederstein published a compelling opinion piece in the Des Moines Register over the weekend urging President Obama to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill their duties in reviewing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Days earlier, Wiederstein, along with other coalition members sent a letter to the White House stressing the importance of this critical investment.
Wiederstein echoed the letter to President Obama in his writing over the weekend, noting that “it now appears that a seemingly straightforward engineering and environmental impact decision has been delayed by special interests in politics,” adding that, “Environmental groups opposed to all forms of energy and infrastructure projects have urged members of the federal government to call into question previous engineering and environmental decisions made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
The piece goes on to point out the diverse group of businesses and organizations that make up the MAIN Coalition and recognize the importance of expanding much needed energy infrastructure.
“With a diverse array of backgrounds and interests in our organizations, we are motivated to ensure that this project is authorized and permitted as soon as possible to allow for the opportunity for working people throughout the Midwest to construct this important infrastructure project and to limit the impact on the farmers whose land this pipeline will cross,” said Wiederstein
In conclusion, Wiederstein reiterated the need for the expedient approval of this pipeline project so that thousands may begin work and the impact to farmers is restricted to a one growing season. “Finding no reason to oppose, this project was approved and determined to be in the public interest. We urge the federal government to allow the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to do the same, in order to advance this critically important project for our region,” he said.
Yesterday, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) further delayed issuing a construction permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline after convening for several hours to discuss the matter.
“The board’s lawyers told regulators Monday that Dakota Access, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, is in substantial compliance with most of the conditions,” noted the Des Moines Register’s Bill Petroski in an article following yesterday’s meeting.
Eric Schmidt, a member of LiUNA’s Des Moines-based Local 177 described a growing sense of frustration within the labor community that the project continues to be held up by state regulators despite being approved last month. “This is something [laborers] have been looking forward to for over a year now. We thought after the decision came last month that the construction would be getting underway right now,” said Schmidt.
MAIN Coalition Chairman Ed Wiederstein has also weighed into the discussion, highlighting the consequences of a delayed construction timeline in a letter to the IUB last week. Wiederstein echoed concerns expressed by Schmidt, and also expressed concerns that further delays could hurt the state’s farming community.
Besides denying Iowans employment, any delay unnecessarily imposed by the Board will have the added consequence of impacting the state’s farmers. It is the stated intention of Dakota Access to construct the pipeline within one growing season and to commence land conservation efforts upon its conclusion. To delay the project will mean that construction will span multiple growing seasons, inconveniencing the majority of landowners who have signed voluntary easements and are eager to start the project.
The IUB unanimously approved the Dakota Access Pipeline in early March, agreeing that the project serves the public interest and benefit. It is important to all Iowans that construction of the pipeline take place in a manner that is least disruptive, but doing so requires action now–not further delays.