As the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline moves from countryside to courtroom, from protest to litigation, pipeline opponents in Iowa have yet another reason to be optimistic.
Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) — the Texas company proposing a 500-mile wind transmission line across Iowa and Illinois. The Court ruled unanimously that RICL is not a public utility and does not have the right to use eminent domain. Click here to read the entire ruling.
Regardless of your opinion on wind transmission lines, the Illionis decsion’s ramifications for Iowa are huge.
To quote directly from the ruling, RICL must “own, control, operate or manage, within this State, directly or indirectly, a plant, equipment, or property used or to be used for or in connection with the production, transmission, sale, etc. of one of the specified commodities or services. Second, it must own, control, operate, or manage the plant, equipment, property, franchise, etc. ‘for public use.’ Rock Island fails to meet the first of these requirements.”
Keith Puntenney — an attorney and Webster County landowner whose property was taken by Dakota Access — points out that: “When it comes to eminent domain, Iowa law is very similar to Illinois law. In the case of the Dakota Access pipeline, no services are provided to the Iowa public. In fact, Dakota Access’ ‘product’ will not come back to Iowans at a lower cost than already exists. The only economic advantage from the pipeline inures to private parties, NOT the Iowa public at large. The Illinois case further strengthens our argument that oil and gas pipelines are not public utilities and should never have the authority to use eminent domain.”
And here’s what Iowa State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) had to say about the ruling: “The Illinois court got it right when it sided with landowners. The court made it clear that corporations that aren’t public utilities shouldn’t be given the power of eminent domain, whether the merchant line in question is carrying wind or oil.”
In short, last week’s ruling in Illinois is a big deal! Iowa’s pipeline fight isn’t over! We’ve moved from education to lobbying to protest, and now to the courts. The appeal filed by Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club continues to move forward. Briefs and rebuttals are currently being submitted, and we expect the Iowa Supreme Court to hear the case early next year.
If, over the past three years, you’ve taken action to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline — whether you testified before the Iowa Utilities Board, wrote a letter to the editor, attended a hearing, donated money, marched or engaged in direct action — your voice and your presence are needed now more than ever.
So please: STAY INVOLVED! The Illinois ruling’s relevance to Iowa is significant. Let’s continue to raise our voices against the abuse of eminent domain, against the threat this pipeline poses to our water and land, against the damage this oil is doing to Earth’s climate.
Each week, I’ll ask you to take a specific action. Today, I ask you send a letter to the editor of your local paper, referencing some of the points presented in this blog. If you need additional information or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. And send me a copy of the letter you write. Thanks!