The Iowa Utilities Board issued permits for the dig by citing eminent domain, a legal principle in the US that allows the government to seize private property for projects deemed beneficial to the public.
Hanigan of the Davis Brown Law firm questioned whether the project offers any benefit to the people of Iowa.
"The thrust of the question is whether or not the Dakota Access pipeline is a utility," Hanigan explained. "Our point is that Dakota Access pipeline is not a utility because it doesn’t provide any utility services and it has no customers in Iowa."
The project is intended to transport oil from the state of North Dakota, through three neighboring states, including Iowa.
"The lawsuit asks whether a private company, which provides no service to Iowans, may use the state’s power of eminent domain to seize land from Iowa citizens for its private use," an article posted on the David Brown website said.
A court will hear the farmers’ appeal for an emergency stay on August 17.
"If a stay is not granted, Dakota Access, within weeks, will dig a massive trench across the petitioners’ farms. Once the pipeline trench is dug, the harm to the petitioners will be permanent and irreplaceable," the farmers argue in documents filed with the court.
Hundreds of miles away in North Dakota, 14 members of a Native American tribe were arrested earlier this week during a protest against the $3.8 billion pipeline project, according to local media reports.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been demonstrating against the project for months, claiming the pipeline violates the US National Historic Preservation Act, and that the project threatens to pollute the nearby Missouri River.