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Pipeline opponents work to raise awareness

A dozen foes of Texas-based Dakota Access LLC’s plans to build a pipeline across Iowa gathered Thursday evening in Ames Public Library’s Danfoss Room to discuss the project, which the company estimates will cost $3.8 billion and transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil each day from North Dakota to a hub in Illinois.

The meeting was organized by members of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, a coming together of activist and environmentalist groups leading the effort to defeat the project in Iowa.

It was organized primarily to provide Iowa State University students with more information about why the coalition opposed it, but several others attended as well, including Fred Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU, who waxed philosophical, connecting resistance to the Bakken pipeline to the broader environmental justice movement.

“I think creating awareness will help get people interested,” said Kate McCoshen, a 20-year-old ISU undergraduate student in community and regional planning, environmental studies and sociology who helped organize the meeting. “Even looking around today, you can see people who didn’t know about this pipeline coming into the room talking about ways to stop it, ways to start a conversation.”

The group discussed how power in numbers could potentially halt the project; how it would create few permanent jobs after the completion of construction; and how although Iowa law only requires the company to be on the hook for a $250,000 surety bond, the costs of cleaning up crude oil spills often were many millions of dollars and have left lasting damage to soil and waterways in other states.

The pipeline’s proposed route cuts across more than 340 miles of 18 Iowa counties, including all of the state’s major watersheds and about 14 miles across Story County.

Related: Firm seeks to build oil pipeline across Iowa

As initially submitted, the proposed route crossed a portion of the Story County-owned Heart of Iowa Nature Trail between Huxley and Cambridge, four ISU-owned farms south of Ames and ISU’s Allee Memorial Demonstration Farm in Buena Vista County, in addition to many private properties in rural Iowa.

Mark Edwards, a retired Iowa Department of Natural Resources official who lives in Boone County, expressed frustration about what he saw as his former employer’s lack of interest in protecting the state’s environment from the project.

“Now I’m raising hell, because they aren’t,” the 67-year-old said.

Earlier in the day, the activist group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement announced in a press release that, in tandem with the coalition of which it is a member, it would deliver 2,000 letters objecting to the pipeline project to the Iowa Utilities Board.

The IUB will ultimately decide whether to issue Dakota Access a hazardous liquid pipeline permit it needs for the project to proceed. The decision could come as early as December or January, the IUB has said.

“We respect that with a project of this nature, we are going to have lots of opinions; it is all part of the process,” said Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman representing Dakota Access, about the opposition.

“That is why we continue our outreach to landowners, elected officials and others to communicate information on the project along with the benefits of increasing our country’s availability of domestic crude. We are pleased with the number of easement agreements we have signed with Iowa landowners, which to date represents nearly 60 percent of the tracts along the Iowa portion of the project.”

David Goodner, an activist who previously led ICCI’s efforts opposing the pipeline before departing the group, challenged the 60 percent figure last month using the Iowa Land Records online database in an article published on the environmental website DeSmogBlog.

As of Thursday, there were 551 Dakota Access easement agreement records filed on the website, which was established by the Iowa Legislature to compile county recorder information, of the 1,295 tracts the company has reportedly said the pipeline will cross in Iowa.

If landowners resist allowing Dakota Access to bury pipeline under their land, the company may be able to use eminent domain to force them to comply if they are compensated.

This article was written by Gavin Aronsen from Ames Tribune, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.