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Pipeline opponents unable to sway county supervisors

While Kathy Holdefer and her associates didn’t seem surprised by the Jasper County Board of Supervisors taking no action at Tuesday’s weekly meeting on a proposed resolution to locally reject the Bakken Oil Pipeline Project, she said she was surprised by two other things that happened.

Holdefer said she was pleasantly surprised to see and hear from other Jasper County landowners who were among the 30 people who packed in the county courthouse board room. She was also surprised to hear what board chair Denny Carpenter had to say in his final comments about the pipeline project, regarding pipeline material that has been stored in plain view on private property east of Newton for at least the past six months.

The stockpiling and other business related to the pipeline has taken place well before hearings — scheduled to begin Thursday at the Boone County Fairgrounds — determine its final approval or rejection by the Iowa Utilities Board.

“I don’t think what we do up here is going to make any difference,” Carpenter said. “Somebody must know something we (the board) don’t know. We wouldn’t see all this pipe all over the state of Iowa if someone didn’t know what the outcome is going to be.”

A third-party procurement company is storing pipe for the project on behalf of Dakota Access, LLC near Newton and Keokuk in Iowa and in Canton, S.D.

All three supervisors said they will remain neutral on the pipeline proposal. Carpenter said he doesn’t feel a county resolution or other action would impact the IUB’s approval process for the Bakken project, which involves public comment sessions set for Thursday in Boone.

Carpenter said county governments don’t have jurisdiction over what is stored on private land — nor does it have domain over state project approvals.

Holdefer and other county landowners were able to get a proposed anti-pipeline resolution on the agenda. She presented her main financial liability, environmental and safety concerns and doubts about how many permanent jobs the project will create, and she was accompanied by Mingo-area landowners Theresa and Joe Weeg and Nathan Malachowski of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Related: Sanders speaks against Bakken pipeline through Iowa

Two union representatives came to Newton to address the board regarding the amount of permanent jobs they say will be supported by the pipeline.

“I can’t say I’m not disappointed,” Holdefer said after the meeting. “But I’m not surprised. I’m just glad some people came out and we could have this discussion in Jasper County, in this kind of venue, because it’s an important public issue. And I really do respect the opinions of the unions.”

Erich Schmidt of Laborers International of Iowa and Ryan Hollinrake of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 234 addressed the board. Both read statements that pointed out pipelines are constructed and maintained primarily by trained, skilled career union professionals, who might not necessarily live in town, but are full-time, often with pensions and other sorts of typical union benefits.

Proponents and opponents both mentioned how the pipeline has been addressed recently by other Iowa counties. Malachowski read aloud an anti-pipeline resolution recently passed by the Boone County Board of Supervisors, while Hollinrake mentioned Story and Jefferson had recently decided not to take up similar actions.

Schmidt encouraged the board to take no action on the proposed resolution, as mostly personal views were presented to the supervisors while scientific data will need to be shown to the IUB in order to gain approval. Newton residents Dana Simbro said a supervisors’ resolution would carry more weight than the words of the average citizen, and Patricia McNamara said a pipeline leaves a lasting impression on topography.

Supervisors Denny Carpenter and Joe Brock both concurred with Carpenter in terms of remaining neutral on a state project their board would have to help implement, if approved.

“I have (utility) pipelines on my property, and I hate them,” Brock said. “They require all kinds of work. I sit on this board to help facilitate the needs of our constituencies. I don’t know how we can do that fairly if we take a stand one way or the other.”

Holdefer indicated last week that they also plan to ask State Sen. Chaz Allen (D-Newton) and Jasper County Environmental Health Director Kevin Luetters to publicly decline support of the pipeline project. Allen, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting, told the Newton Daily News that he has not received correspondence from Holdefer or another outspoken landowner, Dan Gannon and will not take a position on the pipeline’s construction.

Allen said he’s told Dakota Access representatives he would support legislation strengthening Iowa’s eminent domain laws if it reaches the Iowa Senate floor in the coming session. But he is also director of the Jasper County Economic Development Corporation.

As JEDCO director, Allen has been in direct communication with representatives from Dakota Access. He said he provided company officials with landowners’ contact information while its representatives searched for a staging area for piping intended for the project. Allen said otherwise JEDCO did not help to facilitate the stockpile.

If the pipeline’s permit is approved by the IUB, the JEDCO director said he sees it as his responsibility to ensure the county receives any economic benefit possible, from temporary union construction jobs to property tax revenue.

“If the project moves forward, it’s my job as JEDCO director to see it’s financially beneficial for Jasper County,” Allen said. “There are people against the pipeline project, but if it’s approved, we want to put Jasper County in a better situation.”

Reporter Michael Mendenhall contributed to this story.

This article was written by Jason W. Brooks from Newton Daily News, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.