As I write this letter, Bakken pipeline crews are cutting down crops on the farm my wife and I own east of Ames. The crop cutting is preparatory to the trenching that will forever scar our land.
My wife and I have done everything we could to prevent this. We are plaintiffs in lawsuits to stop this pipeline, have spoken out at numerous public demonstrations, and have written to every politician and agency that could help.
This pipeline will offer nothing to Iowans beyond some property tax revenue and construction jobs. And observations to date suggest that the construction jobs are going largely to out-of-state workers.
Landowners like my wife and me, whose land was taken through eminent domain, are supposed to receive “fair compensation.” But the compensation is a pittance in comparison to the damage done, and legal costs and taxes eat substantially into anything we might receive. Appeals through the courts can take years.
A 2006 Iowa law (Section 6A.21) even gives special protection for farmland against this very situation of “eminent domain for private gain.” The Iowa Utilities Board, with all three members appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad, ignored that law and all evidence of the many risks to the environment.
Our only hope is the courts, and we, may prevail, but probably only after the pipeline is built. With eminent domain by a private company, justice is but an illusion. The only remedy: campaign finance reform to prevent legally buying off politicians.