Hold Exxon accountable for climate change coverup

Dear Friends,

2015-05-22 ed arrested 13492_10153321632537500_6688470756927352338_n

Photo by Troy Church, May 18, 2015

A year ago today, I was arrested by my friends with the Iowa State Patrol because Governor Branstad refused to hear the stories of landowners I’d met during my 400-mile walk along the Bakken Pipeline route. Thanks to a coalition of landowners, farmers, tribes, property-rights advocates and environmentalists, this fight is still on. For a handcuffed-stroll down memory lane, from my visit to the Governor’s office to the Polk County Courthouse, click here, here, here and here.

In other news, Bold Iowa has joined the national mobilization to hold Exxon accountable. Click here for the op ed I wrote as it appears in today’s Des Moines Register, or continue reading . . .

Democrat or Republican. Cubs or Cardinals. Tea or coffee. Regardless of where you come down on life’s biggest decisions, here’s a simple concept we all should be able to get behind:

When people behave badly, they need to be held accountable.

Since corporations are people, as we learned from Mitt Romney a few years ago, corporations who behave badly likewise need to be held accountable.

Alas, by now I should know better. Yet, it still surprises me when tough-love politicians — i.e., those who favor corporal punishment, the death penalty, drug testing of welfare recipients, etc. — want to let corporate offenders off the hook with a slap on the wrist, or more commonly, a slightly-smaller tax handout.

Exxon-Bold graphicAmong corporate bad-boys, Exxon Mobil, America’s largest oil company, recently moved to the top of the list, ahead even of Big Tobacco, Big Bank and the NFL.

How badly has Exxon behaved? Well, if you thought Big Tobacco was deceitful for lying about its product while destroying enough lungs to kill 100 million people in the 20th century alone, that pales alongside Exxon’s assault on every lung on the planet.

Last fall, a brilliant piece of investigative journalism conducted by InsideClimate News revealed shocking truths about what Exxon knew about “the emerging science of climate change. The story spans four decades, and is based on primary sources including internal company files dating back to the late 1970s, interviews with former company employees, and other evidence…”

Forty years ago, Americans were mostly one big, happy family of climate deniers. Who could fault us? With little information available to the average person, climate change appeared to be but a muddled theory, potentially no more valid than spontaneous generation or canals on Mars.

But back then, there were those who knew exactly what was happening, including the top brass at Exxon. Like Big Tobacco, instead of dealing responsibly with the findings of its own scientists and researchers, Exxon worked “at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day,” the report found.

Americans should be outraged. And the investigation launched by InsideClimate News last year should be just the beginning.

And it is just the beginning. Attorneys general across the nation are conducting their own state-by-state investigations. To his credit, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has expressed interest as well. Hundreds of Iowans have signed petitions encouraging Miller to investigate Exxon with the same tenacity he brought to bear with the tobacco lawsuit several years ago.

(On May 25 at 11 a.m., a coalition of Iowa organizations plans to present Miller with petitions calling for such an investigation. Details here. Please join us!)

Of course, not all Iowans agree. Just as Big Tobacco had its friends, so does Exxon.

Enter Iowa Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison. In his recent guest column, Holt defends Exxon, arguing against “using the legal system to silence businesses that do not subscribe to government’s conclusions on climate change.”

Silencing Exxon? Hardly. We want them to speak loudly — and truthfully — about everything they knew about climate change, and when they knew it. And we want them to speak before a court of law, if it comes to that.

These state-by-state investigations are not about suppressing dissent. From the perspective of an attorney general, charged with being the chief legal advocate of the public good, an investigation of this nature is about consumer protection, about holding accountable businesses that mislead the public.

Over the years, Iowa Attorney Tom Miller has done an admirable job in that role. Here’s hoping he’ll rise to the challenge again when it comes to Exxon.


Listen to the Fallon Forum:
– Live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines, IA)
– Outside of central Iowa, listen live here: FALLON FORUM LIVE-STREAM
– KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA)
– KICI.LP 105.3 FM (Iowa City, IA)
– WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Running for their lives

Dear Friends,

It was a great honor to be invited to speak in Omaha last week at the conclusion of “Run For Your Life,” a 500-mile relay organized by tribal youth in opposition to the Bakken Pipeline. I was deeply inspired by the commitment and passion of these young people.


Run for your life video screen shot on new laptop 5-3-16

Please take six minutes to watch this video — Run for Your Life Relay Against Dakota Access — produced by my coworker, Shari Hrdina. I hope you’ll take an additional minute to share it with others.

Here’s an abridged version of the speech I gave:

“Iowan pipeline fighters have come here today to stand with you in opposition to the Bakken Pipeline. We are from many groups, including Bold Iowa, the Bakken Resistance Coalition and the Meskwaki People.

Marching at Omaha Rally 5-3-16

Relay runners lead the march to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Omaha.

“We represent farmers, landowners, tribes, environmentalists. Many of us have been in this fight for almost two years. In Iowa, we continue to stand strong against the Bakken Pipeline. And we honor the strong men and women who have accomplished something great — this run of 500 miles.

“Thirty years ago, I came here with another group of Iowans to greet 600 people with the Great Peace March, who had walked from Los Angeles on their way to Washington, DC. Two years ago, I came to Omaha from the other direction, on foot myself this time, walking from Los Angeles with 35 others on the Great March for Climate Action.

“It seems that every time I come to Omaha it has something to do with walking or running. This run you have done is truly a great thing. You sent a message to the Corps and to the President. You sent a message that was heard across the Missouri River and beyond.

“Last year, when I walked the Iowa portion of the pipeline route, I got to meet the people who live and work directly in its path. I talked with hundreds of farmers, landowners and residents of nearby towns. Very few of them want this pipeline. Even most landowners who signed an easement don’t want this pipeline.

Omaha Rally Bobbi speaks 5-3-16

Bobbi Jean Three Legs, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, addresses the Army Corps of Engineers and the crowd at the rally.

“I heard story after story of people who were lied to by Dakota Access, who felt cajoled, pressured, even harassed. The company reps would say that the oil was going to stay in the U.S. They would lie about the safety of pipelines, and   about how landowners would get very little compensation if the company had to come after them using eminent domain.

“There was even one farmer in southeast Iowa who refused to grant the company an easement. Well, they offered him teenage prostitutes if he would sign their papers. This company has no moral compass.

“That southeast Iowa farmer is still standing strong. And many others continue to stand strong. In Iowa, over 150 landowners refuse to sign away their land to Dakota Access. Nine landowners are part of a lawsuit that makes a very, very strong case that eminent domain cannot be used by a private, for-profit company.

“In Iowa, we continue to fight. Every week, there are multiple actions happening across the state, including a vigil last week in Des Moines in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. And soon, I will send a letter to President Obama signed by over 20 Iowa organizations, the same letter we delivered to the White House two weeks ago and signed by Jane Kleeb, Dallas Goldtooth, Frank James and me, a letter asking the President to tell the Corps to do its job.

“Yes, we remain strong. But this great thing you have done, this run of 500 miles, makes us stronger. It inspires us to continue to fight the Bakken Pipeline in court, through pressure on the Corps of Engineers, through the media — and if it comes to it, through standing in front of the bulldozers when they come to tear up our land. Farmers who’ve never even had a speeding ticket tell me they’ll stand with us to block the bulldozers.

“The writing is on the wall. Pipeline companies are losing. Just in the past month, people standing together stopped the Constitution Pipeline in New York, the Kinder Morgan Pipeline in New England, and the Palmetto Pipeline in Georgia.

“So, rest, tired runners. But only for a day or two. Because we need you. We need your strength, your vision, your minds to win.

“And we win when we stand side by side.

“We win when we are broad, diverse, and united.

“We win when farmers, ranchers, tribes, city folk, environmentalists and climate activists work together, walk together, run together, and if necessary, get arrested together.

“So again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done. Thanks to all who helped organize this run and this rally. And thank you for gifting me the honor of speaking here on behalf of Iowa’s thousands of pipeline fighters.”


Listen to the Fallon Forum:
– Live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines, IA)
– Outside of central Iowa, listen live here: FALLON FORUM LIVE-STREAM
– KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA)
– KICI.LP 105.3 FM (Iowa City, IA)
– WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Bold Iowa Blasts Dakota Access For Attempting to Bypass Corps


 Ed Fallon, 515-238-6404, ed@boldiowa.org

Bold Iowa Blasts Dakota Access For Attempting to Bypass Corps

Des Moines — In response to a request made this morning by Dakota Access to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), asking the IUB to allow it to begin construction without waiting for final permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, Bold Iowa issued its own response to the IUB challenging the legitimacy and even legality of Dakota Access’ request.

“Throughout this process, Dakota Access has bullied landowners,” said Bold Iowa director, Ed Fallon. “Now they are trying to bully the IUB. In doing so, they’re hoping for an end-run around the Army Corps of Engineers — the entity rightfully charged with a full, objective analysis of the wide range of potential impacts of this pipeline.”

The Corps just recently reassured all parties that it was neither pro- nor anti-pipeline, making it clear that it intends to fulfill its responsibility to the Corps’ stated mission to protect and manage the nation’s water and land resources with a blind eye to political consequences. Nonetheless, the Corps has come under strong criticism in recent months for failing to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed pipeline. Some of the strongest critics have been the Tribal Nations who live along the path of the pipeline, who argue that the Corps has largely ignored them.

“Bold Iowa certainly has an opinion about the Bakken Pipeline,” concluded Fallon. “We don’t want it. And we stand with tribes, landowners, farmers and environmentalists against it. But above all, we expect a fair and open process. Many of Dakota Access’ tactics over the past two years amount to bullying, and we trust that the IUB will stand its ground, and stick with its earlier decision to require ALL permits to be complete before Dakota Access can begin construction.”

Bold Iowa is part of the Bold Alliance, a newly-formed grassroots effort in four states, building unlikely alliances to oppose the expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure, protect landowners against the abuse of eminent domain, and encourage investment in renewable energy.


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Awaiting presidential action on the pipeline

Dear Friends,

The Bakken Pipeline poses serious risks to Iowa’s farmland and waters. Yet the project’s impacts have not been fully assessed by the Army Corps of Engineers, despite what the MAIN Coalition claims in a recent opinion piece in The Des Moines Register [Obama urged to allow pipeline to proceed, April 24] and in a letter MAIN sent to President Obama.

The Corps has a stated responsibility “for investigating, developing and maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources” on projects like the Bakken Pipeline. That includes the Corps responsibility to the entire area affected by the pipeline, not merely segments of it.

This charge demands a thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the full range of impacts, including climate change and tribal cultural resources.

Landowners, advocates and the Tribal Nations are not the only ones urging the Corps to do its job. The Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency stated their concerns as well. Yet the Corps so far has refused to conduct a full and comprehensive EIS.

Without an EIS, the threat to primary water sources for farmers, ranchers, tribes and city dwellers throughout the four-state region and beyond can never be fully assessed.

Without an EIS, the likely impact on climate change won’t even enter the conversation.

Without an EIS, concerns raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes about potential damage to the Missouri River watershed and other waters of the United States won’t be heard.

From what I can gather, the MAIN Coalition exists solely to promote the Bakken Pipeline. So, it should come as no surprise that fossil-fuel interests dominate MAIN’s membership.

MAIN’s letter to President Obama was sent exactly one week after I sent a letter on the same subject to the president. That letter was co-signed and co-authored by Jane Kleeb of Bold Alliance, Dallas Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network, and Frank James of Dakota Rural Action. The letter has since been signed by over twenty Iowa organizations opposed to the pipeline — organizations that Wiederstein characterizes as “outside groups” and as  “environmental groups opposed to all forms of energy.”

Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. MAIN is on extremely shaky ground to disparage criticism of the pipeline as agitation from “outside groups.” I’ll remind readers that Dakota Access is from Texas.

Furthermore, our letter’s signatories stand with tribal leaders who claim the Corps failed to properly consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the pipeline’s impacts.

The letter reads: “{T}he Corps is mandated to initiate consultation with tribes whose historic properties may be affected by the pipeline route. This includes consulting and coordinating with the aforementioned tribes on the identification of historic and tribal properties that may be adversely affected by pipeline construction and route.”

Not only do we stand with the tribes, but some of us will run with them as well on May 3, when a 500-mile relay led by a young Lakota woman name Bobbi Jean Three Legs arrives at noon at the Corps’ headquarters in Omaha, to tell the Corps that pipelines are not wanted on native lands.

Back to President Obama and his role in the Bakken Pipeline. I’ll quote from our letter:

“Dear President Obama. Your rejection of the Keystone Pipeline was truly historic, and we again commend you for that bold act of foresight and leadership. Your decision sent a strong statement about the importance of protecting land, water and property rights. It also conveyed the message that climate change is a clear and present danger demanding America’s full commitment to ending our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

“With that frame of reference, we ask you in the strongest possible terms to exert the same clarion leadership with regards to the proposed Bakken Pipeline.”

I wish I were a fly on the wall of the president’s office as he considers our letter and the letter from MAIN. These letters sum up his options.

Will the president tell the Corps to ignore its historic responsibility of “maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources,” thus allowing Dakota Access to rush forward on a pipeline that has generated so much public backlash?

Or will he hear the plea of those with no vested financial interest in oil or pipelines, those who will suffer with the destruction of farmland, water and habitat?

Given the legacy President Obama has built, I believe he will side with the people, with our water, our land, our property rights and our planet.

{If you want to see what I wrote above as it appeared in The Des Moines Register on Sunday, go to “Army Corps refuses to assess pipeline’s impacts.”}

On today’s Fallon Forum:
– Filmmaker Jon Bowermaster discusses his film, Dear President Obama, The Clean Energy Revolution Is Now!.
– Dairy farmer Francis Thicke talks about the confusion over nitrogen pollution, in large part due to Big Ag’s campaign of disinformation.
– Defenders of Exxon’s decades-long campaign of deceit fight back, even as Exxon’s quarterly profits hit a ten-year low.
– Kevin McCarthy with the Iowa Attorney General’s office discusses progress being made to address sentencing disparities for non-violent offenders.

Listen to the Fallon Forum:
– Live on Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines, IA)
– Outside of central Iowa, listen live here: FALLON FORUM LIVE-STREAM
– On KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA) Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. CT
– On WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– On KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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