DES MOINES, Iowa -- The case pitting Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Iowa Utilities Board has weaved its way through the legal system and on Wednesday ended in front of the seven Iowa Supreme Court Justices.
“This is a case of first impression for Iowa. The question in this case is whether a private crude oil pipeline which provides no direct service to Iowans whatsoever, and provides only incidental benefits is a public use under this state's constitution” said Bill Hanigan, representing the landowners.
Hanigan say it isn’t, and as such shouldn't have been granted permits from the Iowa Utilities Board. Justice Brent Appel questioned if even incidental benefits (rather than primary ones) would qualify it as a public necessity.
“Where does this primary come from? And where does the direct come from? Obviously, it's not in the constitutional phrase itself, why should we import those qualifiers in the constitution?” asked Justice Brent Appel.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing the Dakota Access Pipeline argued that it is public because anyone in Iowa was allowed to buy into the pipeline and the oil it transports.
“And that's all the law requires, your honor, that there is a legal right and a legal opportunity for the general public, even if very few may be in the position to use it” said attorney Brent Dublinske.
Justice Appel called that claim "sweeping”.
“You might as well just say your right to property is not a constitutional but it's subject to the legislature to dictate” said Appel.
Meanwhile landowners gathered outside the court following the arguments, looking forward to a ruling.
“It’s amazing that a group of farm owners that never knew each other and are relatively inexperienced dealing with the legal system, and no idea what they faced, could finally get to this point and have their case heard by the Iowa Supreme Court. This is a great day and we're hopeful and optimistic” said farmer Dick Lamb.
A ruling could come down in a matter of days or several weeks.