Letter to the Editor

Oil pipeline insurance deal not enough

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This is with respect to the Resolution recently passed by the Buena Vista County Drainage District. I commend the work of the County Board of Supervisors who sit as Trustees, as well as their attorney, Gary Armstrong, in doing what they can with a difficult situation.

Let me start with the good news.

First, our County apparently is not going to get sued by Dakota Access, which is exactly what Dakota Access did against Calhoun County last July. The Calhoun County litigation underscored the difficulties many other parties, including landowners, have had in dealing with Dakota Access.

I appreciate that our County Board has been able to include a provision in their resolution which requires an insurance policy for the benefit of the County. The language appears to clearly delineate the specific type of insurance coverage for damages related to an oil leak. There also appears to be an enforceability provision.

That's the good news, and I very much appreciate the efforts of Mr. Armstrong and the County Board. They should be commended.

It should be noted that this "agreement" is currently penned between attorneys. Dakota Access still must formalize the arrangement with Buena Vista County by submitting its application for permit under the terms and conditions of the pending County resolution. Mr. Armstrong feels comfortable that this will happen, however I hold my breath.

It should go without mentioning (but I will) that $10,000,000 is woefully inadequate for cleanup of an oil pipeline leak. But that's all the County is going to get.

Enforcement of the provisions in this resolution can only be enforced by the County Board. A landowner cannot enforce these conditions. That means the County Board (not the landowners) needs to be willing and able to file suit, if necessary.

Landowners are not getting these terms in their easements. Landowners are getting loose language when it comes to general commercial liability coverage. A GCL policy, generally speaking, will not clean up a massive oil pipeline leak.

Dakota Access desires to install 347 miles of pipeline in Iowa over the course of about nine months, all to occur in 2016. Our County Board and our county inspector (I & S Group) continue to have a duty to enforce land restoration standards which will be designed to minimize the damage to our land should the permission be granted. Will our County Board be ready to stop Dakota Access when land restoration standards are not being followed? Will I & S Group be ready to do that?

I appreciate Supervisor Merten's comments about the use of eminent domain. We are going to find out whether it is right for a private, for-profit, out-of-state, limited liability company, which was not in existence before 2014, to receive the power of eminent domain for the purpose of running a pass-through crude oil pipeline. To be sure, the project will be a boon for the construction industry as well as this fortunate Texas oil pipeline company, but if the answer to the eminent domain question is yes, it will be a dangerous precedent.