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Rallies, protests begin Bakken pipeline hearing

BOONE — Rallies marked the beginning of a highly anticipated Bakken crude oil pipeline permit hearing today before Iowa utilities regulators on a windy, late fall morning at the Boone County Fairground.

About 150 union workers, many wearing orange LIUNA (Laborers’ International Union of North America) shirts huddled at the entryway to the fairground.

“Our stance is when you build safely and use highly trained workers in the industry, this will bring clean energy,” said Randy Harris of Springfield, a Midwest director for LIUNA. “”And this will employ 3,000 to 5,000 construction workers in the state of Iowa for 18 months, with health insurance and pensions.”

Across the field, about the same number of protesters demonstrated near a shelter.

“I believe I have a moral responsibility to future generations to leave clean water and a stable climate,” said Carolyn Raffensperger of Ames, arguing the pipeline will increase global warming.

The hearing opened this morning in Boone, at the midway point of the proposed pipeline route by Texas-based energy company, Dakota Access, LLC.

At least 210 people are expected to speak today, including many from out of state, during a public comment period before the three-member Iowa Utilities Board. The hearing, expected to run three weeks, will decide a request for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit. The board alternated public comment between supporters and opponents, with each speaker getting two minutes.

Related: Sanders speaks against Bakken pipeline through Iowa

Farmers are resisting letting the pipeline pass through their land, while others are protesting on environmental grounds. They may not have a choice if the Iowa Utilities Board grants eminent domain, which would allow Dakota Access to seize their land for a fair market price.

“I would venture to guess everyone speaking in favor has a personal financial interest or knows someone who does,” said Jonas Magram, of Fairfield. “None of us who are speaking against the pipeline have anything personal to gain.”

Workers unions, include trades of labor, pipe fitter, boilermakers and others, point to the jobs the pipeline will contain. Dakota Access estimates they will spend $1.1 billion building the pipeline in Iowa, and $3.78 billion total.

“The opportunity Dakota Access offers is a career builders, rather than thousands of dollars in student debt I am gain skills I can use here in Iowa,” said Ross Walsh, of Winterset. “Pipelines are safer than trucks or trains to move oil.”

The proposed route is 1,134 miles from the Bakken and Grand Forks region of North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a terminal in Patoka, Ill., which will ship the oil south. The 30-inch diameter underground pipe carrying up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day would slice diagonally across 343 miles and 18 counties of Iowa, from the northwest to the southeast, largely through fertile farmland.

It could generate $55 million a year in property taxes, according to Dakota Access.

Issues of making America energy independent, jobs and economic stimulus for the state, private property rights, environmental concerns and the recent stalling of the Keystone XL Pipeline have put the spotlight on this permit request, which is a much broader request than the utilities board typically handles.

This article was written by B.A. Morelli from The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.