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Judge denies Iowa landowners’ request to halt pipeline work

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A district court judge on Monday denied a request by Iowa landowners to immediately halt construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline on 15 parcels of their land, saying they must first talk to state regulators.

A state law written in 1998 says the Iowa Utilities Board must consider such a request before the court can weigh in, District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell said in his order. The landowners have sued, saying the board does not have the authority to give Texas oil company Dakota Access the right to forcefully condemn private farmland under eminent domain.

The landowners want to stop Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, from digging trenches on their land until the courts can determine whether the board’s application of eminent domain is legal. The planned 1,168-mile pipeline would cut through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“It’s disappointing, but not really unexpected,” landowner Richard Lamb said of the judge’s decision.

Crops have been cut down on Lamb’s land near Boone in central Iowa to make way for the pipeline. The next step is grading, which is expected to begin in week or two, and trenching after that.

The company argued in court on Friday that if the board or the court grants the landowners’ motion to stop work it would be required to move construction crews and equipment around the 15 parcels at a cost of more than $500,000 for each move.

The attorney for the landowners, Bill Hannigan, said the request for an emergency stay will be filed with the board and refiled with the court if it’s rejected. He said the plan is to appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court if necessary.

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