Nine Landowners File Suit to Prevent Pipeline Construction

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WEBSTER COUNTY, Iowa -- Nine landowners are trying to prevent the construction of the Bakken Oil Pipeline by filing a lawsuit against the Iowa Utilities Board.

Last month, the board approved a construction permit for the pipeline and granted the developer the right to use eminent domain.

The lawsuit claims that ruling violates both the U.S. and Iowa constitutions, saying “Dakota Access’ proposed hazardous liquid pipeline is not a public use, public purpose, or public improvement."

The lawsuit seeks to, "reverse the Iowa Utility Board's March 10th, 2016 decision authorizing Dakota Access to utilize the power of eminent domain over agricultural lands."

More information is expected to be released Wednesday during a news conference, however, one plaintiff is already speaking out.

The land Keith Puntenney owns in Webster County is being condemned because he refuses to sign an easement allowing Dakota Access to come through his property. But he's not backing down. He says the Iowa Utilities Board made the wrong call when it decided to authorize the use of eminent domain to access land for the pipeline.

“This is not for a public purpose, this is for a private purpose, for a Texas billionaire who wants to take oil out of the Bakken, and run it down to the Gulf, and put it on a ship and send it all over the world to make money. That’s fine. We don’t object to that, just don’t use eminent domain to go through Iowa,” Puntenney said.

Puntenney uses his land near the city of Harcourt to farm corn and beans. He says by the time Dakota Access is done tearing his land apart, the productivity of the parcel will have suffered greatly.

“That means that this productive farmland, which is 82 CSR farm ground, is going to be rendered unusable for a large number of years because there’s going to be huge farm losses,” Puntenney said. “You have to achieve a certain level or productivity to be profitable, and that’s not going to happen for years and years if at all.”

Puntenney says construction of the pipeline would also impact his ability to cash in on other opportunities, like wind power.

“The way they want to come through the property is diagonally through that far corner over there, and when they do that there’s no way that I can put wind turbines in that part of the farm, which is where the wind turbines have to go because of the safety issues of installing wind turbines,” he said.

And that could prove to be costly. Puntenney said the wind turbines generate between $8,000 and $10,000 a year in income.

“So if you looked at just putting just three wind turbines on this property, that’s more income than I get off of farming. That’s like a third crop,” he said.

The Iowa Utilities Board could not comment on pending litigation.

Puntenney and several other landowners will discuss their lawsuits against the Iowa Utilities Board Wednesday afternoon.

Coverage starts on Channel 13 News at 4 and online.