It's time to protect Iowa's future

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Cheryl Valenta, guest columnist

Good thing Grant Wood captured the beauty of Iowa when he did. Dakota Access started building the Bakken pipeline, bulldozing their way through 1,200 families’ property. The governor appointed Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) approved the pipeline giving eminent domain rights to the Texas oil company. Over 200 landowners had their property condemned, because they don’t want 24 million gallons of fracked crude oil flowing through their land every day. Now they see construction equipment, out of state trucks, and 30” pipe with topsoil piled high. Crops near harvest are being destroyed along the path.

Witnessing destruction of Iowa’s fertile land, citizens are protesting and risking arrest to keep this pipeline from ruining our soil, drinking water and farmers’ livelihood. It would seem appropriate for our state government to help protect Iowans and our natural resources given the huge long term risk to families and their businesses. Instead guidelines set by the state were not even followed. When Dakota Access (DA) started cutting trees, and clearing land, an IUB Motion recognized, “Dakota Access is expected to fulfill its commitment to file such permits, authorizations, approvals, … before commencing construction. Dakota Access has not complied.” Geri Huser, IUB Chair, was just one of three board members to acknowledge their transgressions, writing “Dakota Access has not fulfilled its obligations …”. No fines or legal action was taken to hold them accountable. How does DA get away with non-compliance, yet citizens trying to protect Iowa’s natural resources get arrested?

Gov. Branstad said it would be acceptable for a pipeline to go under his property.2 What about under his buried relatives? The Department of Natural Resources granted permission for the pipeline to go through sacred tribal burial grounds if DA bores 85’ under deceased tribal members….not very sacred.3 Earlier this year Branstad pushed to approve gun silencers to protect the hearing of gun owners.4 What about protecting farmers, the land and water?

The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) didn’t follow their guidelines either. Three federal agencies informed the ACOE they must coordinate with tribal nations to set up government-to-government consultation, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).5 All affected tribal nations were not consulted and this project was segmented into regions, so the scope of environmental review didn’t take into account all environmental consequences associated with this pipeline.

Just like oil and water don’t mix, neither do pipelines and earthquakes. Tremors from a 5.6 magnitude earthquake in OK were felt here in Iowa. Because the ACOE did not conduct an EIS, the impact of an earthquake on this pipeline has never been assessed.

So who is protecting our resources and who is trespassing? Where are Iowa’s leaders actually leading us? Iowa shouldn’t be a dumping ground for any “development” project. Why are Iowa landowners expected to risk it all for Texas and Canadian oil companies’ profit? A new Iowa Nice is starting to emerge. Peaceful demonstrations and protests will continue to hold state leaders accountable for serving Iowans and protecting our future.

• 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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