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Bakken pipeline hearings scheduled to begin Thursday

After months of protests, filing deadlines and seemingly endless debates over the Bakken Pipeline, the Iowa Utilities Board is set to begin the public hearing to decide if the use of eminent domain will be allowed to gain access to the land along the desired route chosen by Texas-based Dakota Access LLC, the company proposing the pipeline.

The pipeline would transport crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale through South Dakota and Iowa en route to a hub in Pakota, Ill., that connects to a Texas-bound pipeline. It would extend 343 miles through Iowa and transverse 18 counties in the state, including Story and Boone.

The public comment portion of the hearing will begin 9 a.m. Thursday in the Community Building at the Boone County Fairgrounds. The evidentiary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16 through Dec. 2, depending on the time needed.

Currently, there are 144 people signed up to speak against the pipeline’s construction and 134 listed to speak in support of the project. In a recent statement, the IUB said it would only allow 210 people to speak at Thursday’s public comment session, 105 for and 105 against. This has drawn criticism from some members of the public who have pointed out that nearly every person scheduled to voice opposition to the pipeline is a citizen of Iowa, whereas several of the people signed up to speak in favor of the Bakken pipeline come from out of state, which might signify that they have other reasons for wanting to see the pipeline constructed.

That criticism also extends to the number of letters the IUB has received in defense of the project, compared to the number condemning it. That number changes daily according to the IUB, but as of Monday, it had received 5,357 letters of support and 4,509 letters against the pipeline.

Related: Eminent domain sought for one-third of Iowa land on Bakken pipeline

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders added his name to the list of people objecting to the creation of the pipeline Tuesday when he released a statement denouncing the project. Sanders said he is against the Bakken pipeline for the same reason he opposed the Keystone XL pipeline.

“I’ve helped lead the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline since day one because we should not be excavating and transporting some of the dirtiest fuel. I’ve introduced the most comprehensive legislation in the Senate, which among other things, called for a tax on carbon pollution,” Sanders said. “Last week, I co-sponsored legislation which prevents the government from leasing federal lands in the future for fossil fuel excavation. I’m opposed to the construction of the Bakken ‘crude oil’ pipeline because as a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, and not increase our dependence on oil, coal and other carbon pollution sources.”

If the pipeline is to be built, the use of eminent domain will be necessary for Dakota Access to gain the ability to cross privately owned land along the proposed path. According to Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for Dakota Access, the company has acquired voluntary easements for more than 73 percent of the properties along the route in Iowa, and more than 78 percent of the properties along the entire length of the pipeline. Granado said she didn’t know how many Story County properties are located along the planned route of the pipeline, but that in Iowa, 859 properties sit along the proposed path and according to the Iowa Land Records website, Dakota Access has filed 906 easement agreements with the state.

Granado said the number of easements is higher than the number of actual properties because some properties have more than one owner and each owner requires a separate agreement. In Story County, 22 easements have been signed for properties that have a total of 14 owners, according to Iowa Land Records. Granado said that because the easements are part of private negotiations with landowners, she would not release the names of landowners who have signed easements or that have entered into other agreements with Dakota Access. She also declined to provide documentation that reinforced her statements about how many people have signed easements.

Many of these details are likely to be released during the hearing process over the next few weeks. Members of the public are invited to attend the hearings.

This article was written by Austin Harrington from Ames Tribune, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.