GILBERT, Iowa -- Iowans expected construction of the Bakken oil pipeline to begin soon after its approval last month, but the Iowa Utilities Board says the company may have begun earlier than allowed.
Now, Dakota Access could face stiff penalties before the pipeline is even laid down.
Over three weeks ago, the Iowa Utilities Board unanimously approved a crude oil pipeline to navigate through 18 Iowa counties.
“It’s a massive project. The stakes are high,” said Gilbert resident Linda Murken. “They're running a whole bunch of oil through our land.”
That same board is voicing their displeasure with Dakota Access for premature construction, thanks in part Merken.
"Gave tentative approval on the permit but conditioned it on a whole lot of things that Dakota Access has not done yet,” Murken said.
She notified the board of a large electric substation that is already being built south of Ames near 303rd Lane and 507th Avenue. Tree clearing has already begun along land purchased by Dakota Access.
“I think they are jumping the gun. I think they aren't respecting the Iowa Utilities Board,” Murken said.
The IUB’s order against Dakota Access defines pipeline construction similar to what many opponents were already afraid of: “A substantial disturbance to agricultural land associated with installation, replacement, removal, operation or maintenance of a pipeline.”
“I thought it was pretty disrespectful to Iowa in general,” Murken said.
Dakota Access could be fined $100,000 for each violation. But early Monday morning, Dakota Access fired back, saying the tree clearing is only taking place on land where they have received voluntary easements and permission from landowners. And since they are only using hand tools, it does not cause a substantial disturbance to agricultural land.
“The things I’ve seen make me feel not trusting,” Murken said.
Dakota Access claims they are the victim, not the violator. Officials even deny the involvement with the electrical substation since they sold the land to Central Iowa Power Cooperative.
“This company is not supposed to be doing things. They are finding ways around it to do things,” Murken said.
Dakota Access officials said they obtained voluntary easements from 84 percent of Iowa landowners. IUB will establish a schedule for further investigations and continue to discuss the possible violations on Friday, April 15.