Pipeline Route Easements

Dakota Access LLC pipeline has filed 23 condemnation suits against 140 individuals, banks and a coal mine to gain easements through North Dakota.

Most of the suits were filed in December against landowners in Williams, Mountrail, McKenzie, Dunn, Mercer and Morton counties, mostly counties where people are feeling pipeline fatigue from numerous oil and gas pipeline projects. No suits were filed in Emmons County, which is far from the oil patch and where the pipeline would exit into South Dakota.

Energy Transfer Partners plans to build the 1,200-mile pipeline starting in Stanley through North Dakota, continuing through South Dakota and Iowa and terminating in Illinois. The company claims the pipeline can transport half of the state’s Bakken oil production of more than  1.1 million barrels daily.

Bismarck attorney Derrick Braaten said his firm represents about one-third of the individuals who are still holding out for better terms before they’ll sign, equivalent to about 10 percent of the pipeline’s 358 miles through the state.

Braaten said besides fair compensation, landowners want best-possible reclamation standards, including correct soil stripping, suitable revegetation and noxious weed control.

“Reclamation is the main issue for landowners,” Braaten said, adding that he believes an agreement is at hand and actual trials won’t be necessary.

Pipeline spokeswoman Vicki Granado was not available -- the corporate office was closed for the holiday Thursday -- but has previously said the company is working on voluntary easements. The company reported to the North Dakota Public Service Commission on Wednesday that its easement acquisition is at 86 percent of the project.

Formal hearings already have been held and a permit is pending. PSC Commissioner Randy Christmann said easements are a private matter and not required for a construction permit, but “(they’re) not completely disregarded either.”

Illinois and South Dakota regulators issued permits in December but one from Iowa is also pending.

Christmann said even though the company may want to begin construction this spring, the PSC won’t hurry the application along.

“We’ll spend as much time as we have to. If it takes longer, so be it,” he said.

One issue is how Dakota Access and the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline will resolve a stretch of parallel easements for the two separate projects. A shared easement would minimize land disturbance but could also make accountability less obvious, Christmann said.

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(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.)