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

this process.”

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.

Sarah Schweinsberg

Sarah is a news and feature reporter for WORLD Radio and WORLD Watch. She is a World Journalism Institute and Northwestern College graduate. Sarah resides with her husband, Zach, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Follow her on Twitter @SarahSchweins.

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  • Tuck
    Posted: Tue, 08/30/2016 02:56 pm

    I am from southern Oklahoma. Pipe lines big and small are everywhere. It is just part of life. She is fussing about a 30 in pipeline crossing a quarter section? That would be 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile or 160 acres. The pipeline right away is at most 200 feet wide and that is being generous. Very little of her 1/4 section would be impacted. 

    I think the real reason is a not in my back yard mentality and maybe a bit of enviromentalism. 

  • Nick Stuart's picture
    Nick Stuart
    Posted: Tue, 08/30/2016 08:23 pm

    There are only two ways to move commercial quantities of crude oil overland: rail and pipeline.

    The story cites a spill of 17,000 barrels. For comparative purposes that's approximately 23 rail tank cars full of crude. The story neglects to say if the pipeline company remediated the spill (which I'm pretty sure they had to).

    Pipelines are HIGHLY regulated by the DOT and have a MUCH better safety record than rail

    Until someone figures out how to power our cars, move freight, heat homes, produce plastics, and generally fuel our comfy first world lifestyle by magic, those are the options. The article doesn't say how Peggy and Craig Hoogestraat, Brad Tschetter, and the rest of the plaintiffs fuel their cars and farm equipment, heat and light their homes, or whether they use anything derived from hydrocarbons (like plastic). Just curious, are any hydrocarbon/petrochemical products used in the production of WORLD Magazine?

    Full disclosure:

    1. I work for a pipeline company

    2. I live 10 yards from a main rail line with 5 or more mile-long oil trains a day running right by my front door. If I can live with it, so can the plaintiffs.

  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Tue, 08/30/2016 09:48 pm

    Thanks for the story Sarah.  I agree that a pipeline is probably the best alternative to move the oil. 

    But as a farmer I'm also upset that the utility companies seem to think that the best place to put them is usually farmland.  Where I live they route power lines on and along farmland (where they interfere with arial spraying) when they could be routed on federal land.  Apparently the environmental impact studies and permissions required are too big of a hurdle just because it is government land. Public utilities should be on public land first instead of usually taking private land just because it's easier.  Here the electric company says they don't have enough time to get the Feds OK.  But they started the project before the economic crash in 2008.  So instead of pursuing that option the waited until they 'didn't have time' to start up the project again.  In reality they never tried to route it on public land.

    I don't know the specifics of the site mentioned but I'm sure the pipeline will affect much more than the 200' swath.  The owner will have to let the pipeline company have access so there will be a road there too and sometimes people coming in.  If it was wooded the trees would be cut on that swath.  The value and potential will be reduced quite a bit.

  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Tue, 08/30/2016 10:14 pm

    Oh and by the way the federal land already has power lines on it.  But it's reagonal power and not local power so a governmental utility entity instead of a regular public utility.