Dakota Access pipeline abuses eminent domain

Subject to scrutiny by both environmentalists and former President Obama, the Dakota Access pipeline has had its construction halted prior to this year. However, the newly inaugurated President Trump signed an executive order on January 23rd this year granting both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines permission to continue with planning and construction that was previously halted.

While Dakota Access already has 80 percent of its proposed 1,172-mile-long interstate pipeline constructed, it met fierce resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe last year when it was supposed to cut through their reservation and run underneath the Missouri River.

Following months of controversy between Dakota Access, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and protesters, Construction was halted just a mile from the Tribes reservation which the Missouri River lies in by the Army Corp of Engineers.

Shortly after, The Army Corp of Engineers announced the desire to look for an alternative route, followed by an environmental review which will evaluate what the impact on the environment the underground pipeline would have.

While certainly not the last executive order that will be issued by Mr. Trump during his presidency, it stands to be the most impactful for Iowans, as it reignites debate once again in Iowa, over the Pipeline’s use of eminent domain. Dakota Access has used eminent domain to seize land from Iowa landowners and farmers to build an interstate pipeline that once completed will span over 1,000 miles.

For those who are not aware, the use of eminent domain is listed in the Fifth Amendment as the Governments ability  to seize property from landowners as long as it can be used as a public utility . Owners of the property must also be given just compensation for any property taken. Eminent domain use has been subject to debate over its necessity and justification as landowners do not get the option to refuse.

Before I voice my opinion, I would like to reiterate that Bill Hanigan is related to me and that his quotes should be read with this in mind.

My opinion of eminent domain in the case with the Dakota Access pipeline deals with whether the pipeline can be considered a public utility for Iowans in order to comply with the constitutional use of eminent domain.

The first point on this issue that I would like to make is that while Dakota Access claims that the pipeline serves a public utility to the people of Iowa, how is it then that the pipeline only runs through Iowa and doesn’t end in it? If the pipeline  is a public utility, then it should primarily benefit Iowans.

This is the main point of contention between Dakota Access and lawsuits against the pipeline in several states that the pipeline runs through. In Iowa, my dad represents several Iowa landowners who are suing Dakota Access based on improper use of eminent domain. While 100 percent of the pipelineis completed in Iowa, Bill Hanigan argues, as quoted by the DesMoines Register, that “if the court concludes their [The landowners] rights were violated by an improper authorization of eminent domain. ‘They would be allowed … damages for every barrel of oil that passed through their property’.”

Dakota Access has argued consistently that the jobs the pipeline brings into Iowa provides a public utility, however once the pipeline construction is finished (which it is in Iowa), those jobs will seemingly disappear.

As mentioned earlier, in order for the Government to enact the use of eminent domain the owner of the property seized must be given just compensation. Just compensation in this instance is getting paid by Dakota Access based on the value of the property.  Personally, the real world interpretation of just compensation doesn’t make sense to me. .

For instance, who is it to determine what the value of property is when it’s someones family farm that has been passed down for generations? Another issue with just compensation is that if the farm has been generating revenue, does Dakota Access owe the landowners more than the value of just the property? Also does compensation in the constitution mean just monetarily? For many of these farmers whose land has been taken their farm isn’t just a livelihood, it’s an identity and represents who they are and what they  believe in.

Although the pipeline has been given the green light for construction by President Trump, the issue on Dakota Accesses’ use of eminent domain remains an issue in Iowa that is still being fought for.

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