Iowa Utilities Board seeking public comment for pipeline rule amendments

Iowa Utilities Board seeking public comment for pipeline rule amendments

The Iowa Utilities Board is currently conducting its 5-year comprehensive review of its administrative rules as required by Iowa law. The Board has preliminary proposed amendments to its rules about the restoration of agricultural lands during and after pipeline construction. These proposed changes are identified by docket number RMU-2016-0013.

The public is currently invited to comment on the proposed amendments or any part of its land restoration rules. Comments must be filed no later than Friday, August 16, 2019. If you wish to file a comment, you can do so via the open docket comment form on the Iowa Utility Board’s website. The draft is in its pre-rulemaking stage and a more formal proposed rule for official public comment will be available later.

The review of the rules is meant to identify and eliminate rules that are outdated, redundant, or inconsistent with statute or other administrative rules. In addition to the rule amendments, the Board will publish an informational document for county inspectors regarding existing pipeline construction statutes and rules. This document will be also open to stakeholder comment when it is completed.

The Board is proposing amendments to add or modify term definitions such as “affected person,” “agricultural land,” “pipeline company,” and “proper notice.” These proposed changes affect which landowners have rights under chapter 9 and what the scope of those rights are.

Public input is being sought on whether a definition for “above-ground structures” should be added, whether to limit the definition of “agricultural land” to land presently devoted to agriculture, whether land preparation activities should count as “pipeline construction.”

The board is proposing to add two items to the list of land restoration plan requirements. First, a unique identification number must be given to each tract of land over which a pipeline will be constructed. Second, stationing must follow a linear progression along the entire pipeline.

Furthermore, the proposed changes place new requirements on pipeline companies. Under the new rules, it would be mandatory for pipeline companies to provide a copy of their approved land restoration plan to the county inspector and other designated parties. Pipeline companies would also be required to perform a topsoil survey across pipeline easements and provide the results at least six weeks before construction. Additionally, pipeline companies would be obligated to provide for weed control measures on occupied land.

The proposed amendments would also require the county inspector to be present during the staking of a pipeline easement. Additionally, the county inspector would have the responsibility of determining whether wet conditions should bar a pipeline company from proceeding with construction.

You can find a complete description of the proposed amendments here.

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