Landowners’ lawsuit against pipeline dismissed
BISMARCK, N. D.— A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nearly two dozen North Dakota landowners who alleged the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline and a consultant used deceit and fraud to acquire private land easements for the project.
But a court case in Iowa involving the pipeline and landowners is expected to linger into next year.
In North Dakota, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in a ruling dated Tuesday sided with a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners and Contract Land Staff, a land acquisition consulting business also based in that state. The two companies disputed that the landowners had any valid claims, and Hovland also found their arguments lacking.
“The court finds that the plaintiffs have clearly failed to specifically allege who made the fraudulent statements, when the statements were made, and to whom the statements were made,” the judge wrote.
The $3.8 billion pipeline began moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois on June 1.
The 21 North Dakota landowners sued in January, seeking more than $4 million in damages for what they called “misrepresentations, deception or other unfair tactics.”
They alleged the Texas companies engaged in fraud while negotiating to lay pipeline on private land, resulting in compensation that was as much as nine times lower than what other landowners got. They also alleged they were told that if they didn’t agree to the offered amount, they faced losing money or getting nothing either because their land would be condemned through eminent domain or the pipeline would be moved elsewhere.
Hovland ruled that the landowners didn’t adequately prove their claims of wrongdoing, and he said it’s impossible to know whether they might have received a better deal under other circumstances.
Attorneys for the landowners did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment Wednesday and Thursday.