Coverage by The Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, September 8, 2016
DES MOINES – Opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline being built in Iowa got a long-awaited reply from President Obama this week but it wasn’t the response they wanted.
Ed Fallon, a former state legislator and leader of Bold Iowa – one of the coalition groups that is seeking to halt the pipeline’s construction – had joined other opponents in asking the president to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to order an environmental impact statement for the entire 1,134-mile pipeline route from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping hub in Illinois.
In their two letters to Obama, Fallon and others had praised the president for his “bold act of foresight and leadership” in rejecting the proposed Keystone pipeline and urged him to take similar action to halt the Bakken pipeline traversing 18 counties in Iowa.
In his Aug. 31 letter, Obama noted that his administration has “made great strides” in confronting climate change and noted that the federal government has strengthening so-called fracking regulations to protect public and American Indian lands.
“When it comes to protecting our planet, we have a responsibility to make smart, forward-thinking decisions that put our children’s future first,” the president said in his letter.
Obama went on to say “of course, we cannot complete the transition to a clean-energy economy overnight. We will continue to rely partly on fossil fuels – and while we do, safety must be our first priority” but he made no specific mention of the Dakota Access pipeline or taking any steps to intervene in the project.
“His response is disappointing to say the least,” Fallon said of the president’s letter.
“He didn’t say anything about it,” Fallon added. “I’m kind of sad to see somebody who claims to get the climate crisis and understands the importance of protecting the land and the water of our native people, and who professes to care about our farmers and landowners, it’s sad to see that there seems to be a complete disconnect.”
Dakota Access, a Texas-based company, has begun placing some of the 346 miles of pipeline slated to cross 18 Iowa counties on a diagonal from northwest to southeast. The $3.8 billion project slated for completion yet this year will transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields through Iowa to a distribution hub at Patoka, Ill.
Last month 30 people were arrested at a construction staging area in Boone County as they protested the pipeline being built in Iowa. Also, a woman was arrested in Lee County for protesting the project and organizers say they expect more demonstrations to occur.
A federal court hearing is slated next week on Dakota Access’ request for a restraining order to keep protesters away from construction zones but before then Fallon expects a larger number of pipeline opponents to stage a protest on Saturday with the potential for more arrests.
Fallon said he still holds out hope that the president will intervene, adding “the issue is becoming more and more prominent and more and more front and center in the national discussion about climate, about treaty rights, about eminent domain. I think it’s becoming such a hot potato he’s going to have to address it.”