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Bakken pipeline doesn't fit Iowa

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Cheryl Valenta, guest columnist

It’s been just over a year that Dakota Access, LLC (DA) submitted a permit to build the Bakken pipeline. Soon the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) will make a decision to approve or deny their hazardous crude oil pipeline permit. If approved, explosive fracked oil will be pumped through 343 miles of Iowa’s fertile soil, 11 rivers, and 67 waterways. The route would cut Iowa diagonally, cross the Mississippi River, and connect to an existing line in Illinois, taking the oil to the gulf coast for export.

Over 1,200 families live along the pipeline route with 92 percent as agricultural business owners who rely on the soil for a living. Given the fact the average pipeline leaks 91 times and soil can’t be cleaned after an oil spill, this project has huge risks. Even a tiny hole would create a massive toxic disaster at a rate of 570,000 barrels flowing daily. Why should over 1,000 Iowa business owners be forced to risk their livelihood to accommodate a Texas oil company and their outdated, declining energy product?

Today’s crude oil market has ample supply with decreased demand which explains current gas prices. It’s the reason for Bakken oil fields dramatic decline with only 41 working rigs, a level not seen since 2009. The oil boom has bust. This pipeline isn’t a necessity.

But pipeline union members cite the six-month jobs. In a recent Gazette article (“Clayton County to study fracking,” Feb. 1), Guttenberg Mayor Russ Loven understands the issue, stating, “good paying jobs are important, but you have to consider the long-term effects, … the environment and quality of life.” With 24,000 Iowans employed in the advanced energy industry including wind, solar, renewable fuels and energy efficiency, there’s ample opportunity for a full-time occupation.

Bakken oil is extracted through hydraulic fracturing methods, requiring silica sand and 25 million gallons of water daily with carcinogenic wastewater as its byproduct. As the first crude oil pipeline ever built by DA, the Bakken would transport oil with carbon emissions equivalent to 18 coal fired power plants. We don’t have to be like gazelle racing toward the climate change cliff, using outdated dirty energy sources and ignoring reality.

Iowa is the nation’s leader in renewable fuels production. This is the energy we should embrace. It’s a beneficial partnership with farmers, and doesn’t require seizing their land and risking their lives. According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the 12 biodiesel facilities have capacity to produce 315 million gallons, and the 43 ethanol refineries can produce 4 billion gallons per year. This helps offset the need for fossil fuels with biodegradable, non-toxic renewable fuel at a fraction of carbon emissions. Iowa doesn’t need to become a victim of corporate greed tethered to last century’s energy sources.

The three governor-appointed Iowa Utilities Board members will soon finish their hearing process without even doing an environmental impact study. All Iowans will be greatly impacted by their decision. Let’s hope they decide to protect Iowa and our precious natural resources.

• Cheryl Valenta is a member of the Bakken pipeline Resistance Coalition and organizer of IOWA 350, a chapter of 350.org, a coalition to encourage action to mitigate climate change and encourage renewable, sustainable energy solutions.

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