More than 200 people will appear before the Iowa Utilities Board today in Boone for public comments on a proposed 1,134-mile pipeline carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, across South Dakota and Iowa, to a terminal in Illinois.
The three-member board set a cap on its public commenting period and required advance sign-up late last week. Each speaker will be allowed two minutes, and the total number of speakers will be evenly split between those for and against a request by a privately held company to use eminent domain to acquire the land needed to construct the pipeline.
We are concerned by the board’s decisions to limit verbal comments and the false equivalence of the 50/50 split. Of the thousands of written comments collected by the board to date, opponents to the pipeline have outnumbered supporters 4 to 1.
The board is facing an important decision: The proposed pipeline cuts diagonally through 18 Iowa counties, traveling 346 miles across the state. The 30-inch pipe would carry up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day. Texas-based Dakota Access needs 50-foot-wide permanent easements as well as temporary construction easements to bury the line at least 3 feet deep. Although many property owners along the proposed route have entered into agreements, the company is seeking permission to use eminent domain to force resistant land owners on board.
To make an informed decision, the utilities board must have a clear understanding of where the public stands. Public comment should be a meaningful exploration and reflection of public opinion.
And while Iowans have had the opportunity to submit written comments, that does not diminish the importance of a public hearing, where citizens can be certain their voices are heard.
The board had other, more preferable options to manage the expected volume of public comment on this proposal. For example, the board could have hosted a series of public hearings in the areas where Iowans will be directly affected by the proposal. They could have heard comments over several days.
Iowa Utilities Board members have a duty to listen to and consider what Iowans have to say, even when Iowans have a lot to say.
It’s clear Iowans want their voices to be heard; the Iowa Utilities Board should be duty-bound to listen.
This article was from The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.