- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

PILOT MOUND, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa man who refused to let a company survey his land for research into a proposed oil pipeline is obligated to let them do so, according to a district court judge.

Judge John Haney said in a ruling filed this month that Dakota Access LLC, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, has the right to temporarily enter Laverne Johnson’s property in Boone County to examine the land, which is in the path of the proposed pipeline. Haney said the move does not interfere with fundamental property rights, and the company provided a required 10-day notice and held an informational meeting.

“The court is not insensitive to Mr. Johnson’s concerns,” Haney wrote in the order filed Aug. 7. “Unfortunately in his case, our legislature has determined this activity is permissible and constitutes a public good.”

Johnson, of Pilot Mound, had refused to let representatives of Dakota Access onto his land, The Messenger reported (http://bit.ly/1KjBsG9 ). Dakota Access sought a court injunction earlier this year, and Johnson argued that any language in state law that would allow such access is unconstitutional.

The land survey was conducted Monday, according to James Pray, Johnson’s attorney.

Pray said he believes the case raises “interesting constitutional concerns” regarding private companies seeking eminent domain rights to secure private property.

Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, said the survey process is critical to the overall design of the project.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision that allows us to move forward and work with these landowners to complete these surveys,” she said in a statement.

Dakota Access is seeking regulatory approval to build an oil pipeline that would transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution center in Illinois. The pipeline would be placed across Iowa.

A coalition of groups opposes the project and says it has various concerns, including the pipeline’s potential environmental impact. In July, activists submitted more than 2,600 written statements against the pipeline to the Iowa Utilities Board, which has authority to approve critical parts of the project. Dakota Access also must secure permits from other agencies.

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Information from: The Messenger, http://www.messengernews.net

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