Backers detail pipeline support

A company planning to build a pipeline across Iowa and supporters of the project filed testimony Tuesday with the Iowa Utilities Board.

In that testimony, they argued why the Dakota Access LLC pipeline benefits both Iowa and the United States and addressed safety concerns.

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

With the pipeline, there would be less oil traveling on the railroads, according to Damon Rahbar-Daniels, vice president of commercial operations at Energy Transfer Partners, of Texas, which is one of the equity owners in Dakota Access LLC.

This would relieve congestion on the rails that affects grain cars in the Midwest, according to Rahbar-Daniels.

“In fact, because of the lack of pipeline capacity to refining markets, nearly half of all Bakken/Three Forks crude oil is being shipped by rail to refineries in the Gulf Coast, East Coast and West Coast,” he said in the prepared testimony. “As a result of the increases in production of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks formations … existing pipeline systems must be expanded and converted, and new pipeline systems constructed, in order to deliver this reliable, domestic crude oil supply to refineries and markets throughout the U.S.”

He said there are currently limited options for refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions. He said that for crude oil from the Williston Basin to travel to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions, it must travel via multiple pipeline systems and that capacity is limited.

“In recent years, the rail network has experienced a growth in rail traffic, as well as a change in the types of commodities shipped via rail,” he said. “These changes have resulted in congestion, falling rail system speeds, and increased shipper complaints.”

He said those problems are caused by the increased demand to ship coal, increasingly large harvests of corn, soybeans and wheat, and increased volumes of crude oil.

Rail transports 14 percent of grains for Iowa, said Stacey Gerard, who previously served as the assistant administrator and chief safety officer for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“Much of the rest of Iowa’s grain (that is not transported initially by rail) is trucked to processing plants; those processing plants must then use rail service to transport value-added products, such as ethanol or soybean meal, to distant customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

Gerard also discussed safety concerns about the pipeline. She said improvements in people, practices and technology make modern pipelines much safer than pipelines installed in the past.

“The pipelines built today are constructed with improved materials, better construction management practices, better installation, greater depth of cover, improved backfilling practices and higher quality coatings,” she said. “All such improvements make the pipe more resistant and able to withstand penetration and stresses and help the coating stay adhered to steel.”

She also said she does not believe that an aging pipeline is “automatically a dangerous pipeline.”

The quality of the pipeline has been one of the many concerns landowners have raised over the proposed pipeline. Landowners have said they are concerned about possible spills and how constructing the pipeline will affect the quality of their land for growing crops.

They have also questioned if it was legal for the Iowa Utilities Board to grant Dakota Access eminent domain.

Rick Hoyer, land and right of way manager for the project, said in his testimony that Dakota Access is seeking a 50-foot-wide permanent easement along the length of the pipeline. He said the company is seeking additional temporary easements for construction up to an additional 100 feet in width.

“This temporary easement, which is used for equipment, for spoil, and for proper topsoil segregation, will revert back to the landowner when construction is completed,” he said.

The route crosses 1,295 tracts in Iowa and, as of Aug. 10, about 63 percent of landowners had agreed to allow the easements.

“Since that time, we have continued to work with landowners,” he said.

Dakota Access will file additional prepared testimony concerning the Exhibit H documents it has filed, which request the use of eminent domain for nearly 500 properties across Iowa.