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Branstad “Steers Clear” – Loebsack Speaks Out

Iowa flagCapitol Digest (QC Times- Mar 30)

INDIANA CONTROVERSY: Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he was steering clear of a controversy in Indiana over a religious liberties law that has raised concerns over possible discriminatory action toward gays and lesbians in the Hoosier State. Branstad told reporters he did not know enough about the political controversy in Indiana to comment but said Iowa’s approach has been and will be to treat everybody with respect and dignity.

Another Iowa politician, Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, however, issued a statement Monday hoping that companies in Indiana or businesses that were looking to move to Indiana would instead to take a look at basing their companies in Iowa, which he said has a history of leading the fight for civil rights based on race, gender or sexual orientation.

Last week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a religious freedom restoration act that detractors say would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians who are not recognized as a protected class in that state as they are in Iowa.


Iowan To Pipeline Representative “I Don’t Want You On My Land”

Weslie Phipps displaying Century Farm certificate

Weslie Phipps displaying Century Farm certificate

“The pipeline representative called me to talk about coming out here to survey… I told her they’d have to carry me out in a pine box before I’d let any oil pipeline people on my property. And you know how she responded… She said, ‘I’ll make a note of that.’”

Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day 24
Posted on April 1, 2015

by Ed Fallon

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Fraser, Iowa

Click here to go to original post at
For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here

Crossing the Des Moines River Valley north of Boone proves refreshing, invigorating. The nearly two-mile stretch offers a dramatic contrast to the flat farm fields that suddenly give way to rolling, wooded bluffs cascading down to the river below. The valley’s beauty is slightly soiled in my mind as I consider the impact of a pipeline break at this location.

I stop at a house on the riverbank and am greeted by three charging jack terriers. A cheery woman calls them off, and without even asking my name or mission, invites me in to visit with her husband.

I step into a fishing cabin and find myself face to face with an older, bearded gentleman in bib overalls. He is delightful, full of stories, questions and history. He clearly loves the river, and spends much of his time fishing. On two recent occasions, the river rose to the very edge of where we are seated. I suggest climate change, but he’s inclined to blame the Army Corps of Engineers.

We entertain each other with a mix of pipeline, professional and personal stories while I devour two peanut-butter sandwiches and give my feet a much-needed massage.

I cross the river and come to a beautiful, well-kept farm house with a bright red barn. Teresa Phipps answers the door, and invites me in to talk with her husband, Weslie, a farmer and self-described strict constitutionalist, who is adamantly against the pipeline.

“The pipeline representative called me to talk about coming out here to survey,” Weslie informs me. “I told her they’d have to carry me out in a pine box before I’d let any oil pipeline people on my property.”

“And you know how she responded,” continued Weslie, still a bit shocked from the recollection. “She said, ‘I’ll make a note of that.’”

The pipeline would lie about 400 feet from the Phipps’ well. “I told them I’m not going to take a penny from you and I don’t want you on my land, because I don’t want to get a letter someday saying that I’m liable for a spill,” said Weslie.

Good question, and one that comes up a lot. When the pipeline breaks, who ultimately will be stuck with the cleanup cost?

As I cross the river that provides drinking water to a big chunk of Iowa’s population, I wonder how much damage a pipeline break here would cause. What if Dakota Access – a LIMITED liability corporation – just walked away from the disaster? Who would be left holding the bag? Landowners? Taxpayers?

The price tag for cleanup of the Exxon spill on the Yellowstone River earlier this year continues to rise, now at $135 million. The 2010 Enbridge spill on the Kalamazoo River has swelled to $1.2 billion. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has cost $42 billion – so far.

And what does it mean to “clean-up” a damaged waterway? The standard argued by a slick corporate lawyer in court might not be acceptable to people and animals living along the Des Moines River, or for those living downstream depending upon the river for their drinking water.

I climb out of the valley, slightly winded from the fairly steep hike, with the thought on my mind that landowners may have a particularly important point of view in the public debate on this pipeline; yet all of us, across Iowa and beyond, have a stake in this battle, and our opinions matter as much as anyone’s.

What To Do Instead Of Arguing With A Conservative

tea party conservativesYes, you’ve seen these kinds of videos before but this one is actually pretty good.

“In MRI studies when people see information that contradicts their world view the parts of the brain involved in reasoning and logic would actually shut down. Instead it was the parts of the brain that handled attacks and the fight or flight response that lit up.”


Summary: A Safe And Secure Iowa Medical Cannabis Program


SSB 1243:
A safe and secure Iowa medical cannabis program


A responsible, compassionate response to suffering:

Establishing an Iowa medical cannabis program is the most responsible, compassionate alternative to continuing to tell Iowans to either (1) suffer in silence, (2) use legal but ineffective or dangerous medicines, (3) break the law by obtaining medical cannabis illegally, or, (4) leave their homes and move to a different state.

Equal access for Iowans:

Iowans strongly believe that their friends and neighbors with debilitating conditions deserve the same access to medicines already legally available to more than half of all Americans, including the residents of Minnesota and Illinois.

A medical approach instead of political posturing:

Political gridlock prevents the federal government from regulating medical cannabis in a manner similar to other medicines. In response to the federal government’s failure to act, 23 states have created regulated systems to provide their citizens with access to medical cannabis.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Iowa can draw from the best of these state-level programs. Iowans can be provided access to medical cannabis in a way similar to other, federally approved medicines, medicines that are often inherently more dangerous and addictive than medicines made from cannabis.

How would Iowa’s medical cannabis program work?

The diseases covered by Iowa’s existing medical cannabis law would be expanded from intractable epilepsy to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS/HIV, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain resulting from an underlying medical condition.

The diseases covered by Iowa’s existing medical cannabis law would be expanded from intractable epilepsy to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS/HIV, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain resulting from an underlying medical condition.

The Iowa Department of Health would have overall responsibility for the program. A Medical Advisory Board would oversee the program and decide on future proposed medical conditions.
An individual’s certification for medical cannabis would be based on Minnesota’s approach: a written certification from a licensed health care practitioner that the patient suffers from one of the eligible medical conditions.

To address the main reason for the failure of last year’s medical cannabis law, SSB 1243 calls for licensing of four Iowa-based medical cannabis manufacturers and 12 dispensaries. Manufacturers and dispensaries are subject to inspections and strict security requirements.

The Iowa Department of Health would determine the form and quantity of medical cannabis available to patients. Smoking of medical cannabis is prohibited.

“Contaminated Water Would Travel Across Nebraska In Three Days”

Please share and help this go viral.

Why Is Governor Branstad Dismantling Medicaid?

OFrom the newsletter of Senator Bolkcom (D) – Iowa City


Medicaid provides health coverage to just over a half million of the most vulnerable people in our state, including seniors, families and children, pregnant women, and people living with disabilities.

In January, Governor Branstad surprised Iowans with a proposal to privatize almost all of Iowa’s Medicaid system, which is jointly funded and administered by the federal and state governments.

Iowa’s Governor has again decided on his own to make big changes to the health care of other people—people without much political power.

At this moment, only two things are certain.

One: There will be major changes to the health care of at-risk Iowans and to essential services for seniors and the disabled. This includes the social safety net that all Iowa families might need in the future.

Two: With a cost of $4.2 billion, this will be the largest single purchase in state history. The winner will most likely be for-profit, out-of-state companies that will take home as much as $630 million a year.  [Bolding BFIA’s]

Under the Governor’s plan, these decisions will be made at breakneck speed by a handful of people in his administration. The Branstad Administration plans to do more and do it faster than any other state. This approach ignores lessons other states have learned when adopting the managed care approach: Be methodical. Work with vulnerable Iowans and service providers. Take the time to make sure you do it right.

Iowa Medicaid is, after all, Iowa’s second largest insurance company.

This week, the Iowa Senate unanimously approved SF 452 to protect vulnerable Iowans and the safety net we all count on.

SF 452 creates a process to closely monitor this transition, ensure that tax dollars are used wisely, and be sure that vulnerable Iowans have access to critical healthcare services. It outlines consumer protections to protect high-quality care that emphasizes consumer choice, self-direction, person and family centered care, nearby access to care, and fair appeals.

The Senate voted this week to provide some accountability to ensure that the most vulnerable Iowans have access to quality health care.

Loebsack Statement on FY 2016 Republican Budget

loebsack bannerLoebsack Statement on the FY2016 Republican Budget

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after House Republicans passed their budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

“It has long been said that a budget is a set of priorities, a vision of where one believes the country should be headed. The Republican-supported budget that passed the House today fails to reflect the priorities of Iowans I meet every weekend when I travel around my district. This budget ends the Medicare guarantee as we know it, disinvests in education, cuts important funding for rebuilding our infrastructure and eliminates vital job training programs. At a time when our economy is still continuing to recover, this is the wrong approach to putting our nation on a sustainable path forward. We need to pass a budget that invests in our nation’s future by growing our infrastructure, providing retirement security for seniors and making sure any child who wants to can afford to attend college. We need a budget that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-to-do.”

Iowa Pipeline Walk Uncovers New Hero

Kenneth Larkin, Story County, Iowa / photo:

“All we wanted was to have the house fixed.”  –  Kenneth Larkin

Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Nineteen
Posted on March 24, 2015

by Ed Fallon

Monday, March 23, 2015 – Cambridge, Iowa
Click here to go to original post at
For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here

I’ve seen plenty of “Gas Pipeline” markers during the course of this walk. Today, I saw my first “Oil Pipeline” marker – on the front lawn of a well-kept farm near Cambridge, Iowa. I wondered about that as I knocked on the door. I was greeted by Kenneth Larkin, and after introducing myself said, “I notice you’ve already got a pipeline running across your property.”

“No,” said Kenneth. “I’ve got five! One carries propane. Two that used to transport LP gas now run fiber optic. The fourth one, the one marked ‘Oil Pipeline,’ doesn’t really carry oil. It carries distillates – gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, kerosene – and they’re all running through the same pipe with a slug of water in between.”

I had no idea you could transport different fuels through the same pipeline at the same time, merely separated by water. Before Kenneth could tell me about the fifth pipeline, I had to ask:

“So, you’re pretty accustomed to pipelines. I suppose it doesn’t bother you to have one more running across your property?”

“No!,” he said. “I don’t like the pipe I’ve got. They’re dangerous. We had an explosion once.”

He went on to explain in great detail – and with evident mastery of the technical aspects – what caused the explosion to occur. I got out my computer and frantically tried to keep up with him. Failing miserably, I piece together the story as best I can:

The pipeline company takes electricity off the high line. They run it through a box with a wire that goes underground to where it’s attached to the pipeline. That reverses the polarity of the ions in the soil, and the pipeline grabs hold of those ions and expands. But the polarity reversal also eats holes in the copper tubing to Kenneth’s propane tank, and follows a line into the house where the propane meets up with the water heater. When the water heater kicks on . . . KABOOM!

“Someone could have been killed if they’d been near the water heater,” mused Kenneth. “My wife, Judy, who has since passed away, had nick-knacks in the window and the explosion blew them clear out to the road ditch.”

I’m still reeling from Kenneth’s story when he says, “Nope. I don’t want this oil pipeline. 

I think that wind and solar are two of the bases that we should pursue more of. Why do we need fossil fuels? This country has advanced so far, but we’re still using more and more oil.”

In just over 30 minutes, this guy has become my latest hero. He’s against the pipeline for personal reasons AND gets the broader social and environmental concerns.

But I want closure on the explosion. “Did the company compensate you for damages?” I ask.

“Well, we just told them all we wanted was to have the house fixed,” said Kenneth. “They drug their feet and they drug their feet and they drug their feet. Close to a year passed, and our lawyer said we might just as well sue them. The day before we were supposed to go to court, I never will forget. This big, black Cadillac sedan pulls in, and three guys in three-piece business suits out of Tulsa, Oklahoma get out. They pull out one of those big check books. I showed them the bills for fixing the house, and they just wrote us a check, and that was that.”

A happy finish to a story that could have ended much worse. But I am still not satisfied.

“What about that fifth pipeline,” I probe.

“Oh, that one belongs to the Koch Brothers,” concluded Kenneth. “It’s empty.”

“Yeah, I know that,” I said. “Do you have any idea why it’s empty?”

Kenneth tells me about a conversation he had with a Magellan Pipeline Company worker. The guy told him that oil running through that pipeline was a product of fracking. It had salt in it. “That salt was supposedly rusting the seams on the inside of the pipes, and that’s why they’re not using them.”

I asked Kenneth if he felt we could stop this new pipeline from being built. “You don’t have enough money to stop them, and Branstad has already sold us down the water,” said Kenneth. “But if the company is not allowed to use eminent domain, then they can be stopped.”

“And as far as I’m concerned,” said Kenneth, “they ain’t coming on my property.

This Week On The Fallon Forum: House Rural Caucus Update

fallon forumEd talks about the Pipeline Walk with State Rep. Dan Kelley today at 11:00 a.m. Also, State Reps. Bruce Bearinger and Sally Stutsman discuss the House Rural Caucus – Catch the Fallon Forum live on Monday from 11:00 am – 12:00 noon on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines)   Join the conversation by calling in at (515) 528-8122. And you can hear the Fallon Forum on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 pm on Wednesday and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 pm on Wednesday.

Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Seventeen & Eighteen

Thursday, March 19, 2015 – Mingo, Iowa/Friday, March 20, 2015 – Maxwell, Iowa

For original blog with photo, click here.
For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.

Walkin’ the Bakken is proving to be a bigger undertaking than I imagined. My deepest thanks to all of you along the route who have helped with logistics or who have walked with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I also want to acknowledge three colleagues who are making a huge difference in the success of the Walk. Shari Hrdina, who served as the Administrative Director of the Great March for Climate Action, keeps all the pieces from falling through the cracks. And there are so many pieces! Shari is the glue behind the scenes, and we could not do this without her.

Peter Clay works with our local supporters along the route to organize meetings. Peter joined last year’s Climate March for 700 miles, and is now instrumental as a volunteer with the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition. He continues to keep us networked and supporting each others’ efforts.

Landowners are asking lots of legal, procedural and technical questions that I can’t answer. Managing this critical task is David Goodner of the Des Moines Catholic Worker. David is one of the most promising young organizers I know, and he’s getting back in touch with the hundreds of landowners and rural Iowans I’ve met along the Walk.

Of course, with legal questions, it helps to have . . . a lawyer! Several experienced attorneys are working with landowners and other parties opposed to the pipeline. Wally Taylor with the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and I recently discussed the contracts signed by landowners – many of whom are opposed to the pipeline. Here’s what Wally shared:

“A number of attorneys agree that the easements landowners are signing or being asked to sign by Dakota Access have serious problems that adversely impact landowners. In fact, for landowners who have already signed easements, they could declare the leases null and void. Landowners should not sign anything until they have discussed the easements with an attorney. Review by an attorney would only require a short conference that would not be very expensive but would save the landowners a lot of heartache.

“We have also discovered that Dakota Access is now presenting an addendum to the easement to provide insurance coverage. The insurance allegedly covers liability of the company up to $5 million per year. This is per occurrence, not per landowner. There is also an additional umbrella coverage for another $5 million. One problem with this is that $10 million doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of cleanup.

“Other pipeline spills have incurred costs of hundreds of millions of dollars, or even over a billion dollars. Another problem is that this is an insurance policy. Anyone who has dealt with insurance companies knows that the company will either deny coverage or try to limit the amount of the insurance payment. A landowner would have to take legal action to be properly compensated, Ed-walking-down-countryside-low-large-300x244involving great time and expense.”

More and more Iowans are stepping forward to help defeat the pipeline. Perhaps you are already engaged as well. If not, and if you’d like a niche in this critical undertaking, let me know and we’ll make it happen!

Water Summit March 21st

Water quality is one of the most important environmental issues facing Iowa today. But understanding the many different issues and aspects involved in it can be difficult.

Quad Citians have a rare opportunity to learn more and have their questions answered at the March 21st Water Summit: An Environmental Event Focusing on Iowa’s Water Quality. Hosted by Davenport SCENE, the event will be held in the Davenport West High School Auditorium, 1 – 3 p.m., and is free to the public.

A panel of five experts from the agricultural community, local and state government, and private business has been selected to lead the discussion and answer questions. All five are intimately involved in issues dealing with water quality across the state of Iowa.

Attendees to the event will increase their understanding of water issues, and learn how Iowans can respond to improve and protect our water quality.

The panelists include:

Sean McMahon, Executive Director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA). The IAWA is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing the success of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy by increasing farmer awareness of the initiative and their adoption of science-based practices proven to have quantifiable environmental benefits. It was created and is funded by the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Pork Producers Association.

As executive director, McMahon works to champion farmer adoption and engagement in conservation and production practices for continuous improvement of nutrient management and water quality.

Randy Moore, President, Iowa American Water Company and Member of the EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC). Iowa American Water is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing water services to approximately 195,000 people. In his role, Moore works to strengthen customer, regulatory and local government relationships, drives operational and financial results and is the principal external contact for American Water in Iowa.

NDWAC provides practical and independent advice to the U.S. EPA on matters and policies related to drinking water, including regulations and guidance required by the Safe Drinking Water Act. The council may also propose actions to encourage cooperation and communication on drinking water quality among the EPA and other governmental agencies, interested groups, the public and technical associations and organizations.

Dr. Mary Skopec, Senior Research Scientist for the Water Monitoring and Assessment Section (WMAS) at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources/Geological Survey Bureau (GSB) and Coordinator of the IOWATER Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program. At the GSB, she has worked on a variety of water quality projects including the development of a statewide database to track pesticide occurrences in Iowa’s water resources. Dr. Skopec currently coordinates the WMAS analyses of data from the statewide Ambient Water Monitoring Program.

IOWATER is a project of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources. It trains volunteers to conduct basic water chemical, physical and biological measurements. Its mission is to protect and improve Iowa’s water quality by raising citizen awareness about Iowa’s watersheds, supporting and encouraging the growth and networking of Iowa’s volunteer water monitoring communities, and promoting water monitoring activities as a means of assessing and understanding Iowa’s aquatic resources.

Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works (DMWW). Stowe has served in his current position since 2012. His previous positions include Assistant Manager-Public Works/Engineering for the City of Des Moines, Human Resources Director for the City of Des Moines, Operations Manager for MidAmerican Energy, as well as an analyst for Shell Oil, labor relations representative for Inland Steel Industries and a field examiner for the National Labor Relations Board.

Dr. Franics Thicke, Owner/Operator of Radiance Dairy and member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). An organic farmer for more than 30 years, Dr. Thicke currently operates an 80-cow, certified organic dairy in Fairfield, producing milk, cream, yogurt and cheese for sale at local grocery stores and restaurants. He has been active in many organic and environmental organizations including the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Leopold Group Sierra Club in Southeast Iowa, Food Democracy Now, the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.

NOSB is a Federal Advisory Committee whose members are appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The NOSB advises USDA on which substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic farming and processing, based on criteria under the Organic Foods Production Act. As a member of NOSB, Dr. Thicke also serves on its Environmentalist/Resource Conservationists Subcommittee.

Davenport SCENE (Sustainable City Empowered Network for Education) is supported by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Davenport SCENE is a unique partnership of several local agencies including Eastern Iowa Community Colleges/Scott Community College Library and the college’s Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center, Figge Art Museum, Davenport Public Library, Nahant Marsh Educational Center, Quad Cities Food Hub, Junior Achievement, Living Lands and Waters, and River Music Experience.

The goal of the partnership is to advance the science and information literacy of Davenport residents of all ages regarding environmental sustainability and energy efficiency in order to move Davenport toward becoming a sustainable city.

For more information call 563-441-4150.