The fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline is again ramping up! A while back, there was this excellent piece by Carolyn Raffensperger, the story about pipeline sabotage legislation (click here to read Bold Iowa’s press release in response), and this story about US Bank and the divestment campaign.

Good, but we need a lot more chatter and clamor — especially around the landowner/Sierra Cub lawsuit before the Iowa Supreme Court. Letters to the editor (LTE) and Op Eds in newspapers across Iowa would be very helpful right now in advance of the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March.

Here’s a check list to give your letter to the editor or Op Ed the best possible odds of being picked up by a regional or local newspaper, or both:

1. Link to a recent story in the paper you want to write to.

2.  Keep it short. LTEs are best kept to 200-300 words and Op Eds around 650-750.

3. If one or more newspapers agree to run an Op Ed, include a head shot of yourself. A photo of the author absolutely increases readership!

4. Track down contact information for the newspaper and person you need to send your LTE or Op Ed to here.

About the lawsuit . . . In 2016, nine landowners and the Iowa Sierra Club filed a lawsuit that is now before the Iowa Supreme Court. The suit contends that the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) acted illegally when it granted Dakota Access the authority to use eminent domain. The IUB also failed to follow the statutory requirement that the pipeline provide a public benefit.

If the lawsuit goes our way, it could shut down the pipeline! Beyond that, the lawsuit’s impact on property rights is huge. If Dakota Access and its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), can claim that it provides a public benefit because oil flowing through Iowa may eventually come back to us as gasoline, then what’s to stop a mall developer from arguing that it should be able to condemn your land because Iowans will shop at the mall’s stores?

If the Supreme Court rules the wrong way on the lawsuit, it’s impossible to overstate all the harm that could be done to landowners in the future!

The stakes are high. Yet most Iowans aren’t even aware of this lawsuit. In addition to the information above, here are some talking points to include in an LTE or Op Ed:

  • In granting Dakota Access a permit to build the pipeline, the IUB simply made the wrong decision. In section 6A.21(1)(c), the Iowa Code states that public use, public purpose, or public improvement do not include the authority to condemn farmland for private development. The Code contains an exemption for utilities regulated by the IUB, but the IUB must still prove public use, purpose, or improvement. It hasn’t and it can’t.
  • Pipeline company representatives told landowners the pipeline was needed for domestic consumption and to end America’s dependence on foreign oil. The IUB believed that line, but now it’s clear that much if not most of the oil is headed overseas. This further weakens ETP’s contention that the Dakota Access pipeline has a public purpose.
  • The IUB neglected to determine whether the pipeline would provide a needed service and benefit to the public. According to state law, a permit for a hazardous liquid pipeline can be granted by the IUB only if the company shows that the pipeline will promote public convenience and necessity. That’s simply not the case.
  • One reason the IUB gave for granting Dakota Access a permit was because of the construction jobs. This reasoning is flawed. Determination of a public purpose should be only for the project itself, not for any jobs created in the construction phase. If allowed to stand, the IUB’s decision sets a precedent that any private development constitutes a public purpose simply because it creates jobs during construction. This goes against the very intent of the law. Furthermore, very few of the construction jobs went to Iowans. Ample anecdotal evidence collected by pipeline opponents, landowners, and area residents found that perhaps one out of very ten vehicles at a pipeline construction site had Iowa plates.
  • The IUB allowed construction of the project to begin before Dakota Access had met all the requirements the IUB had stipulated. Dakota Access hadn’t received all of the necessary permits and approvals, nor had the company completed an Environmental Impact Statement. It still hasn’t. The company hasn’t obtained what are called “parental guarantees,” nor does it have the insurance required under the IUB’s permit.
  • The Iowa Supreme Court needs to consider the true public necessity: clean water, healthy soil, a stable climate, and the rights of farmers and rural property owners.

[Authors: Kari Carney of 1000 Friends of Iowa, Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa, and Wally Taylor of the Iowa Sierra Club.]