New oil pipeline cuts through Midwest family farms
Energy | Land-use disputes arise on the road to energy independence
by Sarah Schweinsberg
Posted 8/30/16, 12:42 pm
Peggy Hoogestraat farms with her husband Craig in Hartford, S.D., a town where neighbors watch out for each other and share bundles of homegrown sweet corn. In 2014, when land agents with Dakota Access showed up to survey for an oil pipeline route, Hoogestraat and 14 neighboring families banded together to fight it.
For the next two years, the group attended public forums, asked questions, made dozens of calls, and hired an attorney. Hoogestraat decided to fight the pipeline because it ran through a quarter-section of her land she said was ideal to build on. It sits by a highway near Hartford and is close to South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls. Hoogestraat passed up opportunities to sell the land because she wanted to keep it for her grandchildren.
A few weeks ago, Dakota Access buried a new section of the 30-inch diameter pipeline on Hoogestraat’s land. The underground oil pipeline will stretch from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a crude-oil hub in Patoka, Illinois. When complete, the pipeline will pump 450,000 barrels of crude over a distance of 1,134 miles, saving the oil company time and money previously spent transporting crude from North Dakota via train or truck.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose borders stretch from North Dakota into South Dakota, along with environmental activists, opposed pipeline construction near reservation borders in North Dakota because they believed it would hurt their historic sites and endanger their drinking water. Hoogestraat is worried about leaks. Four months ago a 6-year-old pipeline owned by TransCanada leaked about 17,000 barrels of oil in South Dakota.
“I was excited about passing it on to the next generation,” she said. “Now because of the pipeline going through, for one thing you cannot build a home on top of the pipeline route, but the other thing is I don’t think anybody would be comfortable building very close to the pipeline.”
Brad Tschetter farms 5,000 acres with his dad, Willard, in Beadle County, S.D. The farm has been in the family for nearly a century. Like many landowners, Tschetter wasn’t thrilled when he learned the pipeline would run through 3 miles of his land. But he decided to accept a one-time payment from Dakota Access for use of his property.
“Pipeline companies have the ability to get eminent domain, so you’ve still got a little bit of a gun at your head,” Tschetter said.
In Iowa, the 346-mile pipeline crosses property belonging to 910 different landowners. Twelve percent of them fought the pipeline—the largest percentage of holdouts in the four states. Bill Hanigan, an attorney in Des Moines, Iowa, represented nine landowners who filed lawsuits against the Iowa Utilities Board after it granted the pipeline company the right of eminent domain. Hanigan argued the pipeline should not have eminent domain because it’s not a utility. A judge dismissed his clients’ lawsuits.
“The Dakota Access pipeline doesn’t provide any direct benefit to Iowans, certainly not a benefit that can be measured,” Hanigan said.
The governments of Iowa and other states disagreed. They said the pipeline qualifies as a utility because it transports oil. State utility boards gave the pipeline the right of eminent domain because they believed it’s safer to transport oil through pipelines than by truck or train and the pipeline would economically benefit the states it ran through with temporary construction jobs and property taxes.
On Aug. 9, Hanigan filed a motion to temporarily prevent pipeline construction on property belonging to 14 landowners. Construction would be blocked until a judge determines if the Iowa Utilities Board properly granted the pipeline eminent domain.
Back in South Dakota, Hoogestraat said she may have lost the fight against the pipeline, but she doesn’t regret it. She and her neighbors even won some concessions from Dakota Access.
“I do not feel the time that I have spent learning about Dakota Access and the whole process has been a waste of time because we were able to obtain more protection, more conditions with the process of the pipeline,” she said. “And that brings me hope that in the future we may have learned from
Despite ongoing lawsuits filed against Dakota Access, construction on the pipeline is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Listen to Sarah Wedel’s report on the Dakota Access pipeline on the Aug. 23, 2016 episode of The World and Everything in It.