Laying the ground for another pipeline?

Dear Friends,

It’s impossible to say for sure, but I’ll bet anyone a dozen cage-free eggs that another oil pipeline through Iowa is under consideration. The mere threat of another round of condemnation for a new pipeline underscores why it’s so important to call, write or visit your state representative and senator again and immediately!

Remind them to vote “NO” on SF 2235 / HF 2394! If this legislation passes, crude oil pipelines will be classified as “critical infrastructure.” That could make it a whole lot easier for another pipeline to be sited through Iowa in the future.

Click here for details on SF 2235 / HF 2394 and how to contact your legislators.

Remember, the squeaky wheel . . . um . . . gets the oil.

Here’s why Big Oil is pondering another pipeline, and why we need to remain vigilant and ready to spring into action:

– Word is that the Dakota Access Pipeline is already running at capacity. With the potential to transport oil from the tar sands region of Alberta added to what’s already traveling through Iowa from North Dakota, a whole lot of additional capacity may be “needed” to satisfy Big Oil’s insatiable thirst for profits.

– Big Oil controls the White House and the US Congress. The pendulum will inevitably swing back, if not in 2018 then probably in 2020. ETP or one of its competitors would love to lock in as much carrying capacity as possible before control of the federal government passes into the hands of politicians less bought and paid for by the fossil-fuel lobby.

– In several states, larger pipelines are replacing smaller ones. In other places, including eastern Nebraska, second pipelines are proposed for or being added to existing easements.

In addition to the DAPL easement running diagonally across Iowa, there’s the Wood River Crude Oil Pipeline owned by the Koch Brothers. That line runs from Missouri to Minnesota along I-35 and was abandoned in 2013. Koch had planned to build a new pipeline in that easement — increasing capacity from 90,000 to 250,000 barrels per day — but called off the project in 2014. It’s not clear why, but I’d venture a guess it had something to do with ETP beating Koch to the punch with DAPL.

It won’t be easy for ETP, Koch or another company to site and build a new pipeline along either easement. They’d have a fight on their hands for sure. But if SF 2235 / HF 2394 passes into law, Big Oil’s “critical infrastructure” designation will make our work that much harder.

Fighting this legislation is like whack-a-mole. There’s always something new to take a swing at. Check out my segment on the pipeline on this week’s Fallon Forum. Check out the whole program while you’re at it. And if you’re in central Iowa, please support the local business sponsors who help make the program possible.

Here are the time stamps for each segment of this week’s program. Enjoy. These aren’t conversations you’ll find on the big corporate stations. Feedback welcome:

00:00 – Citizen diplomacy in N. Korea,
27:00 – Pipeline legislation meets continued resistance,
38:00 – Mighty Earth pressures Tyson Foods to source locally,
51:00 – Putin’s re-“election,” and
57:30 – Trump hopes to undermine Mueller’s investigation.

Thanks! – Ed

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You are amazing! Bill Dix . . . not so much

Dear Friends,


Over the past two weeks, your calls, emails and meetings with lawmakers have made a huge difference in the debate about SF 2235 — the pipeline bill backed by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). SF 2235 passed the Senate in February but has stalled in the House. Now some Senators who supported it are having second thoughts. We’re making progress!

ETP hopes SF 2235 will legitimize the Dakota Access Pipeline as “critical infrastructure” because, if the bill passes, ETP’s chances of defeating Iowa landowners in the lawsuit before the Iowa Supreme Court improve.

Even more far-reaching, the bill could open the door for future abuses of eminent domain for all kinds of private purposes. As a farmer along the pipeline route said to me in 2015, “If ETP can call itself a public utility because some of this oil finds its way into my gas tank, what’s to stop mall developers from using eminent domain because I might shop there someday?”

ACTION: Call, write, or visit your state representative and senator this week or this weekend!

Bill Dix

Here are four key talking points:

1. Iowans don’t want this bill — 74% of all Iowans polled in 2015 opposed using eminent domain to build the Dakota Access Pipeline!

2. ETP wants this bill because landowners suing over the abuse of eminent domain have a strong case. Most Iowans agree that the Dakota Access Pipeline isn’t “critical infrastructure.” It’s not at all in the same category as lines carrying water, electricity and gas. We access these services directly and, when they fail, we notice immediately.

3. If ETP gets this bill passed and Iowa landowners lose their lawsuit, it throws open the doors to eminent domain in the future — not just for oil pipelines but for all kinds of private development.

4. The bill would potentially impose extreme penalties for non-violent protest protected under the First Amendment.

So, where does former (as of Monday) Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix fit into all this?

Dix’s departure from the Iowa Senate this week could help defeat SF 2235. Dix was in the back pocket of a host of corporate interests, including ETP. Years ago, he was a staunch opponent of eminent domain for private gain. Dix even floor managed the 2006 legislation that toughened Iowa law to protect landowners from private development. Yet when ETP’s money began to flow into his coffers, Dix switched sides.

Over the past two years, Republicans at the Iowa Statehouse have championed lots of legislation unpopular with voters. As a result, they’ve got a huge political problem on their hands — so huge that there’s more and more talk of Republicans losing control of both the House and Senate next fall. Republicans desperately need some legislative “wins” to show they haven’t completely abandoned Iowans in favor of special interests.

With Dix gone, Republicans now have that opportunity. With most Iowans opposing the abuse of eminent domain and supporting the right to protest under the First Amendment, ditching SF 2235 presents one possibility to do that.

Another bill the new Republican leadership could jettison to show it hasn’t forsaken the average voter is SF 2311. That’s the bill the big utility companies want that would kill energy-efficiency programs. These programs have been around for nearly thirty years, are immensely popular, and save ratepayers money and energy.

ACTION: Call members of the House Commerce Committee as soon as possible.

Thanks for doing your part to hold our elected officials accountable to do what’s fair and just for all Iowans. I’m eager to hear what responses you get when you contact your lawmakers. Send feedback to Thanks!


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Vote “NO” on regressive sales-tax hike

Dear Polk County Friends,

This one is for my local audience regarding the Tuesday, March 6 vote on the local option sales tax. If you’re not a Polk County resident and fighting an unfair tax hike anywhere in America, this is still a productive read. It’s based on what I wrote for The Des Moines Register last week.

Is there anyone in America not fed up with Big Money in politics?

In these most partisan of times, we share near universal disgust with the seasonal bombardment of propaganda financed by corporate and special interests on behalf of political candidates. Sadly, the Democratic or Republican candidate who sinks the most money into this game usually wins.

Well, take heart. There’s one type of election, based on history, where the little guy and gal have a better shot at beating Big Money. On March 6, residents of Polk County will vote on Public Measure A, casting a simple “yes” or “no” vote on increasing the sales tax by a penny.

Sticking it to Big Money is one reason to vote down the proposed local option sales tax, though it’s hardly the best. Here are the reasons I’m voting “no.”

The sales tax hits low-income people and the working poor hardest — a fact verified by every credible study available. As Register columnist Daniel Finney points out, “People who make less than $22,000 per year, the lowest 20 percent of Iowa taxpayers, pay 10.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes, per a 2015 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Meanwhile, people in the top 1 percent income bracket, those who make $376,000 or more per year, pay just 6 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the report stated.”

The sales tax has been raised over and over again even as other taxes that benefit special interests, corporations, and the wealthy have been cut. Enough! Politicians who lack the guts to pay for new projects or programs with a tax increase on those most capable of paying need to rethink this “tax the poor because they can’t fight back” strategy.

This is mostly a tax shift. People hate property taxes, and Public Measure A’s backers know this. That’s why they cleverly earmark 50 percent of the revenue for property tax relief. That’s unfair and disingenuous.

The vote is scheduled for March 6 instead of during a municipal or general election when more people vote. Issue elections such as this usually go better for backers when turnout is small — thus, the choice of an obscure date in March when turnout will likely be 5 to 10 percent of registered voters. On top of that, scheduling the vote separate from other elections costs a bundle of money — think 200 precincts each staffed with three people open for thirteen hours, plus the paper, machines, etc. T’ain’t cheap.

Challenge government to cut waste before raising taxes. Some of the remaining 50 percent of potential revenue would be spent on stuff that most of us appreciate, but let’s demand that local governments do a better job spending the money they already collect. I could give loads of examples of government waste I’ve seen in Des Moines, but each would require a separate column.

Proponents of the sales tax increase have raised $135,000! Those of us opposed have raised $0. Where is the big money in support of the tax increase coming from? Check out the full campaign finance report. Here are a few of the biggest of the big donors, many who will benefit from the proposal’s property tax reduction:

Hubbell Realty Company fund — $15,000.00
Meredith —$15,000.00
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. — $10,000.00
James S. Cownie — $10,000.00
Knapp Properties, LC — $10,000.00
EMC Insurance — $7,500.00
The Graham Group — $6,000.00
Raccoon Valley Investment Co., LC — $5,000.00
Wellmark — $5,000.00
Nelson Development, LLC — $5,000.00
Christensen Development 1, LLC — $5,000.00
The Hansen Company — $5,000.00
Ruan Center Corporation — $5,000.00
Ruan Inc. — $5,000.00
Kemin Industries, Inc. — $5,000.00
Gartner, Michael G. — $5,000.00
Rypma, Timothy — $2,500.00
Simonson, Michael W. — $2,500.00
Conlin, James C. — $2,500.00
Ryan Companies US, Inc.. — $2,000.00
The Weitz Company, LLC — $2,000.00
Des Moines Area Assoc. of Realtors — $2,000.00

At the risk of ruining his reputation, I’ll conclude by again quoting Finney: “[P]roperty tax breaks for big companies and new construction are given away like candy on Beggars’ Night. And city and county officials scramble to find cash to pay for potholes, cops and paramedics.”

Nailed it. Vote “no” and challenge our elected officials to find a fairer way to fund their pet projects.

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