Illinois Supreme Court gets it right on eminent domain

Dear Friends,

As the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline moves from countryside to courtroom, from protest to litigation, pipeline opponents in Iowa have yet another reason to be optimistic.

Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) — the Texas company proposing a 500-mile wind transmission line across Iowa and Illinois. The Court ruled unanimously that RICL is not a public utility and does not have the right to use eminent domain. Click here to read the entire ruling.

Regardless of your opinion on wind transmission lines, the Illionis decsion’s ramifications for Iowa are huge.

Keith Puntenney

To quote directly from the ruling, RICL must “own, control, operate or manage, within this State, directly or indirectly, a plant, equipment, or property used or to be used for or in connection with the production, transmission, sale, etc. of one of the specified commodities or services. Second, it must own, control, operate, or manage the plant, equipment, property, franchise, etc. ‘for public use.’ Rock Island fails to meet the first of these requirements.”

Keith Puntenney — an attorney and Webster County landowner whose property was taken by Dakota Access — points out that: “When it comes to eminent domain, Iowa law is very similar to Illinois law. In the case of the Dakota Access pipeline, no services are provided to the Iowa public. In fact, Dakota Access’ ‘product’ will not come back to Iowans at a lower cost than already exists. The only economic advantage from the pipeline inures to private parties, NOT the Iowa public at large. The Illinois case further strengthens our argument that oil and gas pipelines are not public utilities and should never have the authority to use eminent domain.”

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

And here’s what Iowa State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) had to say about the ruling: “The Illinois court got it right when it sided with landowners. The court made it clear that corporations that aren’t public utilities shouldn’t be given the power of eminent domain, whether the merchant line in question is carrying wind or oil.”

In short, last week’s ruling in Illinois is a big deal! Iowa’s pipeline fight isn’t over! We’ve moved from education to lobbying to protest, and now to the courts. The appeal filed by Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club continues to move forward. Briefs and rebuttals are currently being submitted, and we expect the Iowa Supreme Court to hear the case early next year.

If, over the past three years, you’ve taken action to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline — whether you testified before the Iowa Utilities Board, wrote a letter to the editor, attended a hearing, donated money, marched or engaged in direct action — your voice and your presence are needed now more than ever.

So please: STAY INVOLVED! The Illinois ruling’s relevance to Iowa is significant. Let’s continue to raise our voices against the abuse of eminent domain, against the threat this pipeline poses to our water and land, against the damage this oil is doing to Earth’s climate.

Each week, I’ll ask you to take a specific action. Today, I ask you send a letter to the editor of your local paper, referencing some of the points presented in this blog. If you need additional information or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at ed@boldiowa.com. And send me a copy of the letter you write. Thanks!

Ed

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Fleeing Irma

Dear Friends,

Sometimes I just wanna scream. (OK, sometimes I do, though never loud enough to wake the neighbors or chickens.)

HOW MUCH MORE EVIDENCE DO WE NEED!!? (Caps, bold, italics and underline intended)

Ed helping his daughter-in-law, grandson and son’s dog evacuate from South Florida.

Consistent with what climate scientists have forecast:

* Storms are getting stronger — never before have two Category 4 hurricanes hit the U.S. in the same year.

* Unprecedented wildfires continue to rage in ten Western states, with 21,000 firefighters working to contain them.

* Heck, there was even a large wildfire in Greenland this summer. Freaking Greenland!

* Last year surpassed 2015 as the hottest on record, and 14 of the 15 warmest years have occurred since 2000.

* Average global sea level reached a record high in 2016.

* And the cherry on the melting ice cream cake . . . “No surprise, global atmospheric CO2 concentration reached another record high in the official database, surpassing 402 ppm.” (AccuWeather’s Brett Anderson)

One could cite many more statistics. They add up to the undeniable reality that “climate change is rolling toward us like a freight train, mucking up our weather and our lives.” (Ed Fallon, “Get Your Lazy Ass Out of Bed.” Yeah, I just quoted myself. Awesome, hey?)

So one would think that if someone, say me, listened to hours and hours of radio news reports while driving 1,200 miles to help evacuate his daughter-in-law, grandson and son’s dog (who is more qualified to serve as the USDA’s Chief Scientist than Sam Clovis, just saying) from South Florida to safe haven in the North . . . you’d think I’d hear just one mention of the link between climate change and Hurricane Irma. But no. Not on CNN. Not on CBS. Not even on NPR.

Well, ok, one mainstream media outlet did mention climate change: Fox. Yup. A Fox News anchor interviewed a meteorologist about Hurricane Irma and asked if it was “just cyclical.” The meteorologist paused and said as politely as he could that, well, actually, there’s a lot more warm water in the Atlantic Ocean than there used be.

I hear it now: “Fallon, stop politicizing this terrible disaster. Just focus on saving lives and protecting property. You can have your climate rant after the waters recede and power is restored.”

Sorry, but that argument is B.S. The time to talk about the Irma-climate link is NOW — not after the media have moved on to the next hot item in the news cycle.

Discussing climate change isn’t politicizing the news (like that never happens). We’re talking science, not politics. Politics is when, for example, an elected official takes money from Energy Transfer Partners and then supports the Dakota Access pipeline, as a bipartisan cadre of Iowa political sell-outs did last year.

Ignoring the primary cause of this record-breaking hurricane is unreasonable, irresponsible and lets another teachable moment slip through our fingers as we free fall toward catastrophe.

CLIMATE CHANGE MUST BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION WITH EVERY UNPRECEDENTED METEOROLOGICAL MOMENT.

Help make that happen. One thing you can do is support Bold Iowa. Our funding comes from people like you who care deeply about the climate crisis and renewable energy, eminent domain abuse, money in politics and the embarrassing ineffectiveness of our political leadership. So, yeah, we’ve got our hands full. If you can convince just one of your hands to take a few minutes to make a donation of $25, $50 or $100, we’d be most grateful.

Also, here’s a link to last week’s action to encourage Gov. Reynolds to remove Richard Lozier from the Iowa Utilities Board, and . . .

. . . a link to my interview with Lee Camp regarding the Energy Transfer Partners lawsuit naming Bold Iowa and citing these very blogs. Thanks!

Ed

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