DES MOINES – Chanting protesters gathered at the state Capitol grounds Monday to oppose plans to begin construction of an underground oil pipeline through Iowa, pledging to risk arrest in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience if need be to block a project they say poses environmental dangers.
“We are here today to vow that oil will never flow through this pipeline,” said Adam Mason of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), one of the organizers of a “broken heartland” rally where protesters predicted a summer or resistance that would include chaining themselves to construction equipment, laying in the paths of bulldozers or other acts of defiance follow a state board decision Monday to allow building proceed along parts of the proposed route not currently in dispute.
“We’re going to use every tactic we can to stop it,” he added. “Iowans are mad about this and they’re willing to take action.”
Dozens of pipeline opponents waved placards and chanted slogans like “No oil in our soil” and “We’re talkin’ no Bakken” in defiance of Texas-based Dakota Access’ plan to build an interstate crude oil pipeline along a 1,168-mile path from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a distribution hub in Illinois. Dakota Access officials plan to complete the $3.8 billion pipeline by the end of the year.
“We are here to say no. We will not stop resisting,” said Peter Clay, who expressed concern to a crowd that unfurled a broken heartland quilt across a concrete map of Iowa west of the state Capitol that “our elected officials have secretly agreed to this.” He said legal tactics do not make actions lawful or right.
Rally attendees responded with chants of “Can’t you hear the people talkin’? We don’t want your dirty Bakken.” They’re hoping the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refuses to grant river crossings for the pipeline. There also are pending lawsuits seek to block construction by challenging the company’s use of eminent domain to acquire easements from resisting landowners or erecting other legal hurdles.
Just because a divided Iowa Utilities Board voted 2-1 to allow construction to begin in areas where Iowa landowners have signed voluntary easements, Mason said “this is not a done deal by any means. There are five pending lawsuits against the IUB questioning whether or not they have authority to grant eminent domain for those landowners that are still holding out.”
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Former state Rep. Ed Fallon, a Des Moines Democrat with Bold Iowa who once ran for governor, said he would be willing to risk arrest if need be to block the pipeline from going forward and he expected others who were signing nonviolent civil disobedience pledges to take similar stands.
“I’ve never met so many people who have never even been to jail for a speeding ticket or anything else who are ready to stand in front of a bulldozer if it comes to that,” Fallon said. “It may not come to that, but if a thousand people say, ‘yeah we’re willing to go to jail if we have to to stop this, to protect our land, our water, our property rights,’ if 1,000 people do that, that sends a huge message to Dakota Access and to the political establishment of this state.”