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More at stake than landowners' rights

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Much of the news coverage of last week’s legal appeal of the Iowa Utilities Board’s decision to grant Dakota Access permission to build its pipeline has been sorely incomplete. (e.g. KCCI, WHO, ABC5.)

Yes, a group of Iowa landowners, victimized by the unprecedented abuse of eminent domain, did argue the IUB’s decision violated their constitutional rights. But left mostly unreported was the equally important appeal brought by the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, that argues that there is far more at stake than even the sacred rights of landowners.

While the IUB’s decision to grant eminent domain impacts dozens of Iowa landowners, the Sierra Club argues that the Board’s decision endangers the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Iowans by exposing our drinking water to a host of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals the pipeline will carry.

It is astounding how little thought we give to the safety of our water, even though it makes up 60 percent of our bodies. Somehow we just assume that our government will ensure our water is safe. Really? Just this year, we discovered that countless children in Flint, Michigan, suffered permanent brain damage from contaminated drinking water. Do we really think that Iowans are somehow immune to industry’s — in this case the oil industry’s — willingness to sacrifice the safety and future of our children to boost its profits?

Add to this the warning of climate scientists that we must keep 85 percent of already discovered reserves in the ground. Unless we do so, they say, Iowans will face extended droughts, outbreaks of tropical diseases, and a catastrophic increase in floods and tornadoes, to mention nothing of billion-dollar losses for our farmers and manufacturers. Clearly, these threats give us even more reason to contest the IUB’s decision.

Of course, Dakota Access wants to marginalize those of us sounding these alarms as tree-huggers, but I believe Iowans are too smart to fall for this kind of diversionary divide and conquer tactic.

It is time we recognize that Big Business has only one purpose: to make as much money as it can, regardless of the harm it creates for our children or for our planet. Worse, Citizens United now allows corporations to essentially purchase our elected leaders (and the boards they appoint) so, instead of having a government we can trust, we’ve got a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

Citizen volunteer groups like the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, and the Bakken pipeline Resistance Coalition are far from being tree-huggers. In fact, when it comes to protecting our safety and well-being, they are the best friends we have.

• Jonas Magram serves on the executive committee of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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