Guest Columnists

The Bakken pipeline must be stopped

"In Bed with the Bakken" (Left to right) Mary Beth Versgrove, Lois Hughes, Georgiane Perret, Jan Stephan. Submitted photo.

Earth Day, April 22, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put a stop to the Constitution pipeline, a project to ship fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New York, intersecting almost 300 bodies of water.

In Georgia, the legislature has blocked easements for the Sabal Trail Pipeline and Governor Nathan Deal approved a moratorium prohibiting eminent domain for pipeline through July 2017.

In Oregon, the Jordan Cove Energy pipeline project was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because the company had not demonstrated need for the project, and benefits from the project would not outweigh the harm done to individual landowners to justify the use of eminent domain. The Jordan Cove pipeline would have crossed nearly 400 water bodies,

Energy giant Kinder Morgan Inc. has pulled the plug on its proposed 188-mile natural gas pipeline through parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire largely because of public pressure.

In Iowa, what do we have? A governor and utilities board who appear to be in bed with the fossil fuel industry. Big Oil pipelines pollute our air and water. They blight farmland. They destroy historical sites and recreational areas. They trample Native American rights. All for what? For corporate profit and more profit.

The Bakken shale oil field in North Dakota, starting point of the pipeline proposed to cross Iowa, is largely responsible for most of a global rise in atmospheric ethane — a pollutant that can harm human health and heat the atmosphere further — according to a recent peer-reviewed paper. (EcoWatch, May 6)

Why should we care? For starters, within the past 12 months some 143,000 gallons of crude oil spilled on a beach near Santa Barbara, California. Nearly 90,000 gallons leaked into the Gulf of Mexico in May. More than 20,000 gallons in the San Joaquin Valley a few weeks later, added to the 21,000 gallons spilled from the same pipeline last year. And a few weeks ago, nearly 30,000 gallons of crude oil gushed from a ruptured pipeline near a beach in Ventura, California.

Can we afford this kind of thing in Iowa? Are we prepared to handle the inevitable spill?


The flurry of victories over pipeline projects across the country this year is testimony to the power of the growing bottom-up movement for change, proving yet again that grass roots democracy is the best safeguard for our water, air and land resources.

It’s time that we Iowans exercise our democratic rights to stop the Bakken pipeline.

Wednesday, July 20, members of Iowa City’s for a Fossil Fuel-Free Future staged a street theatre event in front of the Iowa Utility Board (IUB) building in Des Moines. This light hearted event about a deadly serious subject held Governor Branstad and his hand-picked three-person Iowa Utilities Board accountable for approving the permit for the Bakken pipeline.

In front of a small, but enthusiastic crowd, 18 Grannies in their green shirts and a few male supporters (“Grumpys”) braved the 97 degree heat to call attention to what they feel is an illegitimate pipeline-permitting process. Grannies depicting the 3 person Utility Board shared a brass bed with a pipeline while “Governor Pipeline” rocked a baby pipeline nearby. With signs and a satirical rendition of the lullaby, “Rockabye Baby,” they denounced abuse of power, pointing out that this is not a utility for Iowans, but for corporate profit.

Kathy Hodefer, a landowner in Jasper County, spoke, “I tried being “Iowa Nice.” But when I saw BIG OIL treating us like we were “Iowa Pushovers,” I got mad. More importantly, I got educated, and I got active. And so did thousands of others across Iowa.” The Grannies want Iowans to realize this is not a done deal, and they are needed to help fight the pipeline’s completion to protect Iowa’s soil and water. The event was covered by two major TV stations and some local press.

We have entered a new era, a time when the people demand a safer, healthier future by exerting our democratic rights. We are invoking the power expressly granted in both the U.S. Declaration of Independence and in the Iowa Constitution.

It is this grass roots movement that is driving our energy future away from dirty fossil fuel to clean renewables, a shift that is imperative if we are to save our planet from the destructive impacts of a fossil-fuel carbon overload.

Do join us in being part of the solution.

• Ann Christenson, of Iowa City, is a member of for a Fossil Fuel-Free Future. Comments:

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