DES MOINES, Iowa – Passionate protests now going on more than two years in Iowa against the Dakota Access Pipeline rang out from the steps of the Iowa Supreme Court Thursday.
“This has got to stop,” one DAPL protester shouted.
While the pipeline is already in the ground, and oil is set to begin running through it soon, these self-proclaimed water protectors believe there’s still a chance to stop it.
“You can’t drink crude oil, and we believe that the Supreme Court will recognize that their grandchildren are at risk, and that these water protectors behind me who have been part of this coalition for two-and-a-half years have been defending future generations,” said Iowa Sierra Club chair, Carolyn Raffensperger.
The pipeline first received approval to be built through the state by the Iowa Utilities Board – a body appointed by Governor Terry Branstad. Protesters efforts at those IUB hearings fell on deaf ears; an appeal to a district court in the state had little luck, either, and the pipeline was greenlit to continue. But here at the Iowa Supreme Court, these activists and their lawyers believe a reversal on the decision could finally be made.
“That the courts have over the years, come to believe that they basically cannot challenge a decision of the administrative body. That they have to give great deference to the administrative body,” said Wally Taylor, attorney for the Iowa Sierra Club. “That’s not true – they’re a co-equal branch of the government, they’re supposed to be a check and a balance. That’s what we’re asking the Supreme Court to do.”
Iowa law says imminent domain can only be used for public utility or the public good – these lawyers claim the pipeline, which transports oil from North Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico, does neither.
“If those easements are invalid, that means Dakota Access is trespassing on those farms,” said Bill Hanigan, an attorney representing the landowners. “It also means that every barrel of crude oil that goes through that pipe is also trespassing on those farms.”
But it could be more than a year from now when the Iowa Supreme Court finally reviews this appeal, meaning plenty of oil could run through the state of Iowa in the meantime.