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Pipeline company threatens court action if ND landowner rejects construction right-of-way

BISMARCK – The company proposing the biggest crude oil pipeline yet out of North Dakota's Oil Patch has informed at least one landowner that it is prepared to go to court to obtain right-of-way for the underground pipeline.

Robert Ferebee, who raises crops and cattle near Halliday, received a letter dated Aug. 28 from Dakota Access LLC giving him one week to accept the company's final compensation offer for an easement on his land or else the offer would be withdrawn.

Ferebee said he didn't respond and hasn't heard anything more from the company.

"So now eminent domain is threatened against me," he said Tuesday.

Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which owns 45 percent of Dakota Access, said the company doesn't discuss its negotiations with landowners.

However, she said the company is working to secure voluntary easement agreements for the Dakota Access Pipeline and has not commenced any eminent domain or condemnation proceedings, calling that "always the option of last resort for us."

Dakota Access has secured voluntary easement agreements for 74 percent of the 788 tracts it needs in North Dakota for the $3.78 billion pipeline, she said.

Ferebee said he's not opposed to the 1,134-mile pipeline, which would begin near Stanley and cross South Dakota and Iowa on its way to Patoka, Ill., where crude would be shipped to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries.

But he said the route the company has proposed would cut across about 400 acres of his farmland and devalue a total of 1,000 acres. He's asked that the company reroute the pipeline to run it parallel to a Tesoro oil pipeline for which his grandfather granted an easement in 1951.

"It's not about the money because I don't need the money," he said. "I want this to be passed on to the next generation. That's my whole point."

Ferebee's reroute request is one of two giving the state Public Service Commission pause as it considers granting a route permit for the pipeline.

During a work session Monday, the three-member panel signaled satisfaction with 17 reroutes agreed upon by both the landowners and company.

But they're debating how to proceed with the other two requested reroutes, both of which would affect landowners outside the original project corridor proposed by the company.

Granado said the company plans to start construction immediately upon gaining the necessary permits and approvals — which it anticipates will be early next year — and to have the pipeline in service by the fourth quarter of 2016.

The company has secured the necessary shipping commitments from oil producers and the pipeline will initially transport up to 450,000 barrels of crude per day, with capacity for as much as 570,000 barrels daily, she said.