FARGO, N.D. (CN) — A dozen families claim in court that Dakota Access lied to them about how much money they could get for easements for its now infamous pipeline, and threatened that they would get nothing if they did not sign up fast.
Lead plaintiffs Ray and Carole Olin et al. accuse Dakota Access LLC of fraud, misrepresentation and unfair tactics in acquiring land easements, in violation of North Dakota law, in their Jan. 6 lawsuit in Federal Court.
The landowners, all of Morton County, say Dakota Access approached them in 2014 to obtain easements for a pipeline to carry crude oil from western North Dakota oilfields to a terminal in Illinois. Dakota Access offered them $180 per 16.5 feet (or one rod) of easement, plus a 20 percent signing bonus, for a total of $216 per rod if the owners signed up within 30 days, according to the lawsuit.
“Dakota Access informed the Morton County landowners that $216 per rod was the best price that would ever be offered and the price would never be more for other landowners in Morton County,” the complaint states.
But Dakota Access actually paid some Morton County landowners as much as $2,000 per rod, according to the lawsuit.
Morton County is just west of Bismarck. Its seat is Mandan.
Dakota Access told some of the plaintiffs “that if they did not sign the easement, their land would be condemned by eminent domain … and they would either receive less money or ‘basically nothing,’” the complaint continues. It told still others that “if they did not grant the easements and accept the $215 per rod, the pipeline would just be moved to different land.”
Dakota Access also told them the price of oil was sinking and “if they signed right away they would get the easement money even though the pipeline might not be constructed,” the complaint states.
All the plaintiffs say they signed their easement agreements “based on Dakota Access’s misrepresentations, deception, or other unfair tactics.”
But three of the plaintiffs say they ended up getting $400 per rod. They say that “many landowners” in Morton County got $660 per rod, and some got $2,000 per rod.
The pipeline made news around the world last year when the Standing Rock Sioux protested the potentially catastrophic effect a pipeline spill could have on their land and the Missouri River.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental assessment of the pipeline also was heavily criticized.
The Morton County landowners seek more than $4 million in additional compensation for the easements.