by Ed Flaherty
This week we celebrate Earth Day. It is a day to bring into the active areas of our brains the innate understanding that we have only one Mother Earth to live on, and that she needs our care badly.
We can each help in our own individual ways. We can bike, recycle, eat healthy, garden, plant trees, reduce our carbon imprint, etc. But how can we reconcile our own important but small efforts with our blindness to the fact that most of the discretionary budget of the U.S. federal government is devoted to the military? The U.S. military is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world. It emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other organization in the world.
Forget for a moment the disastrous environmental effects of war itself. Forget for a moment the erosion of moral and civil values as we accept the idea of perpetual war.
Ask yourself one question. Why devote most of our discretionary budget to fund the organization that is doing more than any other to destroy the security of the planet? Our splendid democracy should be capable of allocating our resources to efforts to secure our environment, and should be able to induce the Pentagon to adjust its mission to one of helping, not destroying, our only home.
What’s true is there are a lot of posts, articles, books and periodicals that discuss global warming and climate change on the Internet. There will be more along the road to COP-21 in Paris this December. What’s more true is a lot of it is bullshit.
Blog for Iowa recommends the handy climate change BS guide, “How to Tell if the Article About Climate You are Reading is B.S., in Four Easy Steps,” an article on ClimateProgress by Joe Romm.
Romm delineates these four steps:
Skip climate articles by people who think the problem is hopeless or intractable — because it most certainly is not.
Skip articles written by George Will and his ilk.
Skip articles—especially longer climate essays—by authors who don’t explicitly tell you what temperature target or CO2 concentration target they embrace and how they’d go about attaining it.
Skip articles embracing Orwellian terms like “good Anthropocene.”
Check out the entire article here.
Ed Fallon Invites All Iowans to Join Him At Grassroots Speak Out
Former State Rep. Ed Fallon will complete his 400-mile anti-pipeline walk across 18 counties on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, and he invites all Iowans opposed to the Bakken oil pipeline to join him at the State Capitol at 5:00 p.m. for a special Earth Day Rally to Stop the Pipeline.
Who: Everyday Iowans
What: Earth Day Rally to Stop the Pipeline
Where: People’s Park at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, west Capitol lawn, East 7th and Locust St.
When: Wednesday, April 22, 5:00 p.m.
Why: To stop the Bakken oil pipeline and save the planet
From the newsletter of Senator Rob Hogg:
Monday, April 20 – This is the deadline to apply if you would like to attend the Climate Reality training in Cedar Rapids May 5 to 7 with former Vice President Al Gore (see below). This is a unique opportunity for Iowans to learn more about climate change and get more involved in the effort to achieve a sustainable future. For details, or to apply, visit www.climaterealitytraining.org/iowa/.
Wednesday, April 22, 7:00 p.m. – Mt. Mercy University will host David Thoreson, an Arctic sailor and explorer who lives in Iowa, as the Earth Day Speaker at the Betty Cherry Heritage Hall. Although I will not be able to attend due to legislative commitments in Des Moines, I have seen David speak and highly recommend this event.
Saturday, April 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – EcoFest returns to New Bohemia [Cedar Rapids] with an eco-fair, live music, an owl and a hawk from the Raptor Center, tours of Mt. Trashmore, and many other activities. For more details, visit http://www.ecofestcr.org/.
Tuesday, May 5 to Thursday, May 7 – As indicated above, Vice President Gore will bring his Climate Reality training to Cedar Rapids. This training is one of four he will conduct this year, with other trainings in New Delhi, India; Toronto, Canada; and Miami, Florida. You must apply to attend by Monday, April 20 (see above).
An eminent domain bill is emerging in the Iowa legislature. If it becomes law, it would impact both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Rock Island Clean Line which share the issue of being merchant distribution lines for oil and gas, and electricity respectively.
Whether an eminent domain bill would be sent to the governor is an open question. The Iowa legislature is stymied over K-12 school funding, and the overall budget. Last weekend’s discussion was whether or not to send legislators home while a committee ironed out details.
“I think that’s unwise,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in an Associated Press interview. “I think everybody’s voice needs to be heard. I think everybody should stay and work. I think it’s time to knuckle down and get to work.”
The legislature is required by statute to finish the budget before adjournment, so April and likely part of May will be a slow grind toward compliance. At this point, the parties can’t agree on a revenue number or on how to spend it. There appears to be time to work on an eminent domain bill while the budget is finalized.
Last Thursday, Ed Fallon completed his walk across Iowa along the route of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. In his daily report from the project, Fallon wrote, “eminent domain legislation is coming this week! I was in touch this weekend with two key lawmakers who assured me that, before week’s end, we’ll have companion bills with bipartisan support in both House and Senate. This is very encouraging. Stay tuned.”
The two lawmakers are State Senator Rob Hogg and Representative Bobby Kaufmann, who chair the government oversight committee in their respective chambers. I confirmed the bills were sent to drafters with Kaufmann in a telephone conversation last night. Government oversight is exempt from the funnels that limit introduction of new legislation during session.
On April 10, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a 23-page ruling on Clarke County Reservoir Commission v. Edwin D. and Deloris A. Robins Revokable Trust, in which Justice Thomas Waterman wrote for the majority, “we strictly construe statutes delegating the power of eminent domain and note the absence of a clear legislative authorization for a joint public-private entity to condemn private property.”
Both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Rock Island Clean Line are such public-private partnerships, so this court decision has ramifications for the projects. Notably, as Fallon described during his pipeline walk, many land owners along the route oppose the pipeline and eminent domain would have to be used to gain an easement. The legislation proposed by Hogg and Kaufmann includes definition of “merchant projects” and “public use,” which if enacted into law could effectively end both projects in their present form.
In Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court found that projects initiated by private developers could use eminent domain as a tool, finding that “economic development did not violate the public use clauses of the state and federal constitutions.” However, as Kaufmann noted last night, if states have a stricter interpretation of eminent domain and the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution, such state laws would take precedence under Kelo. An intent of the proposed legislation is to create stricter interpretations of public use when used in the context of eminent domain, and to separate eminent domain uses for merchant projects from those of regulated utilities.
An eminent domain bill is emerging. With legislators divided over the Rock Island Clean Line and the Dakota Access Pipeline, and over eminent domain abuses in the state, there appears to be enough support to advance the bill.
For parties interested in eminent domain and in both projects, this will be one to watch.
On Tuesday more than 400 people joined a webinar titled, “Change Starts with You: Becoming a Climate Reality Leader,” hosted by the Climate Reality Project in advance of the May 5-7 training in Cedar Rapids.
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps already has more than 7,000 members from 125 countries since its beginning in 2006. It seeks to add another 3,000 in this year’s North American trainings in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Miami, Florida, and Toronto, Ontario.
Attendees are expected to travel to Iowa from around the globe to be a part of the Climate Reality Project.
“Solving the climate crisis is within our grasp,” said Al Gore, founder and chairman, The Climate Reality Project. “We need people like you to stand up and act.”
I’m following up today from The Climate Reality Project. We are an organization started by former vice president Al Gore and focused on creating a global movement to influence action on the climate crisis. We have an upcoming training opportunity that I believe you and members of your organization will be interested in.
On May 5-7 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we and Mr. Gore will be hosting a training for new Climate Reality Leaders to help grow the movement. As you well know, United States leadership is critical as we travel the Road to Paris in preparation for December’s COP21. There has never been a better time to engage people in the U.S. and around the world on solutions to one of the world’s most important issues.
The training in Iowa will highlight the U.S.’s important and unique role in the COP21 negotiations, climate impacts on agriculture in Iowa, and Iowa’s ability to be a leader in renewable energy sources such as wind.
Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis with the applications due no later than April 13.
To apply, please visit: http://www.climaterealitytraining.org/iowa/apply.php
Please contact me with any questions or more information. I hope you and your colleagues will want to join the network of over 7,000 Climate Reality Leaders from 125 countries taking action on the climate crisis.
Thank you for your time!
Joseph Moran | Program Assistant-Climate Reality Leadership Corps
The fiasco in Indiana exposes the Republican Tea Party for what it has become – a party totally devoid of any ideas on issues, totally indifferent to the citizens of this country and totally committed to only one goal – controlling the government so they can hand our tax money to their rich donors. Way to go, baggers. Your greed forced you to pass laws condoning what Americans hate most – unequal treatment sanctioned by law.
What used to be the normal process of government addressing problems has been totally distorted by a Tea Party that answers only to their donors, but still must get elected in order to put in the oligarchy they desire.
So instead of perceiving problems or having citizens ask for action on problems, today’s Tea Party kowtows to the whims of the rich by continually cutting their taxes and making them exempt from costs of damage they do to the commons, such as the environment and infrastructure. These whims are handed to Tea Party legislators through lobbying groups like ALEC with the legislation that the rich want passed to achieve their goals. Thus we see Iowa’s legislature unable to fund schools while at the same time talking about more big tax cuts with the wealthy getting the lion’s share of the cuts.
The other place the Tea Party gets its ideas for legislation is the religious far right. These are groups that don’t care if people have food to eat or a roof over their heads, but are all about saving their souls based on the gods they believe in. These folks can deliver tons of votes of people fearful of going to hell. Since these religious right wingers vote in every election and usually vote for the candidate furthest right socially, the Tea Party must cater to their whims with insane legislation that keeps these groups voting and voting for Tea baggers almost exclusively.
With gerrymandered districts and restriction on who can vote this strategy has led to the majority of state legislatures and governorships in the hands of the Tea Party. With those majorities we see “the laboratories of democracy” as states have been dubbed experimenting with cutting revenues far below that which a state needs in order to function (Kansas is the prime example), busting unions as fats as they can (see Wisconsin) and of course continually trying to impose their religious concepts as law. In that last one you surely recognize the attempts by Indiana and Arkansas (and Georgia and North Carolina also) to impose legalized discrimination based on sexual orientation.
But let us not forget the many attempts that have been made in various state capitals to impose religious training in public schools, to make creationism the equal of science in schools and many other attempts to make religious concepts part of public policy. Chief Justice Roy Moore in Alabama tries to impose his religious views on marriage in defiance of federal court decision. Just last week in Arizona, a legislator contemplated introducing a bill that would make church attendance on Sunday mandatory in her state.
Now, here in Iowa we have had the luxury of looking at these happenings as being something that happens somewhere else. Well, it would be happening here also were it not for the slim one vote Democratic majority in the Iowa senate. Terry Branstad is no longer a practical moderate. He finally sold what little was left of his soul for a return to Terrace Hill. He was always very right wing, but somewhat practical. He threw out that practical part for the money from the wealthy and the votes from the religious. He was a founding member of ALEC and still looks to make a mark for them. He is virulently anti-union and no longer even tries to cover it up. He never misses a chance to show his religiosity these days. Who can forget about a year ago when he flaunted his disdain for the separation of church and state with a big ceremony declaring a day of prayer in Iowa. He then made a big show of at one of the ceremonies later in the summer.
In the Iowa legislature, the Tea Party pretty much marches in lock-step. They would love to be passing some of those give aways to the wealthy and are successful in at least giving some of our treasury away. They would also love to join their tea Party brethren across the country in making discrimination legal and making their Christian dogma into law. Save for one seat in the senate we would easily be an Indiana or a Wisconsin with Terry Branstad happily signing away the rights of the minorities with a big smile. And if he should no longer be in office, you can bet Kim Reynolds would love to be a Tea Party hero.
So don’t be smug Iowans. We are only a heartbeat away from being just another state run by the rich, for the rich with a helping of region on the side.
So if Tea Party legislatures were actually governing and solving problems that actually exist in the lives of common citizens what problems would they be addressing? Here is a short list. Note that these ARE problems that Democrats try to confront at all levels, but are being shut out by the legislative process:
– feeding the family
– decent housing
– working a full time job for a living wage
– good education for their children in an increasingly competitive world
– the cost of higher education and usurious lending rates to students
– health care for all citizens
– access to a neutral internet
– fixing and updating our infrastructure
This is just a start. Overarching all of these is climate change. I have heard there is a movement among millennials to vote only for candidates who will address climate change. Good for them!
“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–
Click here to go to original post at fallonforum.com
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.
“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 fallonforum.com
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.
(Editor’s Note: Cheryl Valenta, Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, announced three informational meetings in Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Iowa City about the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline proposed to the Iowa Utilities Board in January).
Have you heard about the proposed crude oil pipeline project that will cut through 18 counties in Iowa?
The Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition will host an informational meeting and conversation at the Cedar Rapids Public Library about the proposed Bakken oil pipeline on Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. in Beems Auditorium, rooms A and B. Taylor Broby, an ISU student from North Dakota and Cheryl Valenta with the coalition will speak, and a short video will be shown with time for questions. Plan to attend to learn about the potential impact to Iowans. Bakken Pipeline information can be found at NoBakken.com.
Another opportunity: the Iowa City Sierra Club will host a similar meeting at the Iowa City Public Library on Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. Wally Taylor, chair, Iowa Sierra Club and Cheryl Valenta will speak.
Earlier that day, UNI is hosting a conference “The Ethics of Energy Production,” UNI Maucker Union, April 15 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Discussion will relate to the proposed Bakken crude oil project, and the Rock Island Clean Line project, with representatives from all angles speaking on these issues. This conference is free, but you must register by calling: 319-273-6194. Full details are here:
Please take the time to be informed on these important issues. The future of Iowa depends on people who care about the earth.
We hope you can join us. Thanks.
Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition
Blog for Iowa caught up with Ed Fallon in Iowa City at a March 11 fundraiser for his Iowa Pipeline Walk along the proposed route of the Dakota Access oil pipeline from the Bakken shale formation through Iowa to Illinois.
Fallon presented a slide show of his experiences on last year’s Great March for Climate Action across the U.S., and answered questions during an event attended by about 35 supporters.
Discussions ranged over a variety of related topics. Two seemed most important: eminent domain and an environmental study of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) is leading a bipartisan effort to restrict use of eminent domain by private companies like Dakota Access in Iowa.
“I intend to introduce legislation in the Government Oversight Committee,” Kaufmann said in an email to constituents. “My committee is funnel proof and next week I will introduce an Eminent Domain Omnibus bill that will attempt to address the numerous eminent domain abuses going on throughout the state.”
When asked about the legislation, Fallon acknowledged the several bills filed regarding eminent domain had not yet been finalized into one.
“My biggest hope is it defines public use so clearly that you can’t come in and build a pipeline across Iowa and use eminent domain to build that,” Fallon said. “Because it’s not oil that’s being used here, it’s not being produced here, it’s being refined in Texas and shipped for the most part overseas.”
A bipartisan group of legislators sent a letter to the Iowa Utilities Board asking the regulatory body commission an environmental impact study of the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline.
According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the letter raised eight concerns:
1. Safety risks and hazards associated with the product(s) to be transported through the pipeline;
2. Potential damage to water, land, soil, water, air and wildlife/wildlife habitat during construction;
3. Threats to the environment, farmland, wildlife and public health as a result of spills or explosions;
4. Spill prevention and clean up provisions;
5. Liability for damages to both public and private property and sufficiency of resources to cover such liability;
6. Adequacy of inspection/monitoring/enforcement mechanisms and resources;
7. Responsibility for planning, training, and equipping for emergency response;
8. Indirect impacts of the oil extraction process facilitated by the pipeline that may affect public health and safety as well as environmental security.
“If studying the environmental impact is something we do before we decide to move forward on this, then that has value,” Fallon said. “But if it’s something we do after the fact, after the damage is done, after the decision is made, then it’s kind of a moot point.”
During the question and answer session, Jack Knight of the Allamakee County Protectors indicated that delaying the IUB approval process through an environmental study was a valuable tactic in preventing the oil pipeline from being built.
Opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline have a bigger issue and Fallon touched upon that during our interview.
“Based on what the entire scientific community is telling us, that oil needs to remain in the ground,” he said. “Really this conversation about the pipeline is a sidebar, but a really important one.”