Iowa Bakken Backers Braking

Bakken Pipeline Proposed RouteEnergy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company proposing to build a transfer pipeline from the Bakken/Three Forks shale oil production area in North Dakota, across 17 counties in Iowa, to its existing pipeline in Pakota, Illinois, announced yesterday it will delay its public information meetings until December, subject to approval of the Iowa Utilities Board. William Petroski of the Des Moines Register covered the story:

Energy Transfer Partners, which is planning a 1,100-mile crude oil pipeline that would cross through 17 Iowa counties, is pushing back its timetable for public information meetings on the project.

The public meetings, which will be held in each of the 17 Iowa counties, were expected to begin in late September and conclude in early October. They are now being moved to December to be respectful of the harvest season in Iowa and the Thanksgiving holiday, said Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for the Dallas pipeline company.

ETP burst on the scene with Iowans shortly after its board of directors approved construction of the Bakken Oil Pipeline in June. The original press release can be found here.

The company was formed in 2002, made an initial public offering in February 2006, and is currently traded on the New York Stock Exchange. They are one of the companies that benefited from the development of West Texas, the Eagle Ford and Bakken oil and natural gas production fields. As their name suggests, they transfer oil and natural gas from extraction to market using pipelines. They are doing well financially, according to their latest earnings report which can be read here.

“The big challenge here in Iowa going forward over the next year is going to be to stop the Bakken Oil Pipeline,” said Ed Fallon on the Great March for Climate Action in Coralville last week. “That’s going to dissect the entire state from northwest to southeast, over 400 miles, cutting across people’s property in the worst possible angle. It’s a property rights issue but gosh it’s also an issue of are we going to continue to go in the wrong direction or continue to invest our time and effort and our resources into further developing wind and solar?”

While the angularity with which the proposed pipeline would cross Iowa may not be the main issue, Fallon touched on two things that are: property rights and alternatives to fossil fuels.

It is likely the property rights issue is what slowed the investors down, as it is and has been a key concern of the farming community.

In a July 14 article, Petroski reported Governor Branstad as being undecided on the pipeline, and wrote the following about property rights:

Branstad said eminent domain is a “controversial subject” but it can be warranted for a public purpose such as construction pipelines, roads or bridges. He said he prefers to see land acquired through negotiation in agreement between willing sellers and willing buyers.Governor Branstad said one of the purposes of eminent domain laws was to build public conveyances like pipelines, but he preferred companies like ETP resolved property issues through negotiation with landowners.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) has been a leader on property rights issues in the Iowa legislature, and has expressed concern about the intent of ETP with regard to eminent domain. Eminent domain issues led Kaufmann to join with Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg in opposing the Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and he is expected to be involved in public and private discussions regarding the Bakken Oil Pipeline.

If the Bakken Oil Pipeline is to be stopped, as Fallon indicated it needs to be, property rights issues among the farming community will become a key leverage point. Whether the concerns of Iowans over eminent domain can be assuaged by waiting to hold public meetings after the fall harvest is an open question.

In any case, ETP has the financial resources to see the pipeline through to its completion, so opposition must get beyond generalities about the oil itself, misinformation and hyperbole to focus on what can possibly stop the pipeline. Property rights is one thing that may work.

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