Iowa regulators want proof that pipeline won’t spill

Plans by Texas-based Energy Transfer to double the crude oil capacity of the Dakota Access Pipeline are being challenged by Iowa regulators. Iowa wants Energy Transfer to prove through expert analysis that doubling the line’s capacity won’t increase chances of a crude oil spill.

Texas-based Energy Transfer wants to double the capacity of the pipeline to as much as 1.1 million barrels daily to meet growing demand for oil shipments from North Dakota, and is seeking permission for additional pump stations in the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois to do it. Commissioners in a South Dakota county last year approved a conditional use permit for a pumping station needed for the expansion. Permits in the other states are pending.

The Iowa Utilities Board last week ordered the company to “provide expert explanation of whether the increased flow will increase the amount of oil that will be released if a spill occurs.”

The nonpartisan panel, whose three members all were appointed by a Republican governor, also wants information on pipeline pressure levels currently and if the expansion occurs. The company also must provide “expert explanation” on the effect any additives to the oil would have on the longevity of the pipeline.

The $3.8 billion pipeline has been moving oil from the Dakotas through Iowa to Illinois for more than two years. It was subject to prolonged protests and hundreds of arrests during its construction in North Dakota in late 2016 and early 2017 because it crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The tribe draws its water from the river and fears pollution. Energy Transfer insists the pipeline and its expansion are safe.

Tribal members are asking the North Dakota Public Service Commission to deny the expansion of the pipeline, saying it would “increase both the likelihood and severity of spill incidents.” The company said in court filings that its $40 million pump station built on a 23-acre site would produce only “minimal adverse effects on the environment and the citizens of North Dakota.”

The North Dakota PSC in November held a hearing on the proposed expansion that was overseen by an administrative law judge. The 17-hour-long hearing was held in Linton, a town of 1,000 along the pipeline’s path and near where a pump station would be placed to increase the line’s capacity from 600,000 barrels per day to as much as 1.1 million barrels.

The three-member, all-GOP elected North Dakota panel has scheduled a “work session” this week in Bismarck to discuss issues raised at the hearing two months ago. But no formal action is expected at the meeting.

Source: Associated Press