Courage

Dear Friends,

There’s nothing like courage to inspire principled acts of conscience. Perhaps the gutsy actions last week of two landowners fighting to stop the pipeline has inspired you to step forward, speak out, take action. I can assure you that Hughie Tweedy and Vern Johnson have further deepened my own commitment to stopping the Bakken Oil Pipeline. (Stay tuned for news about that later today.)

It took a lot of guts for Hughie Tweedy to go public about the conversations he recorded with a representative of the pipeline company. In interviews that have been published in media across the country and in Canada on CBC Radio, Hughie recounts how in exchange for his land, the rep “offered me women . . . not once, not twice, but three times. In the third time, a $1,200 teenage prostitute.”

Hughie’s life has been taken over with an endless string of media inquiries. He’s even had to learn to use Facebook and a cell phone! Hughie poked the giant — and a poked giant is likely to poke back. News that Dakota Access offered prostitutes for access to land is really, really bad public relations for the company. Add this to all the other stories circulating about pipeline representatives lying and bullying, and more and more Iowans are realizing that Dakota Access is a company that can’t be trusted.

Or in the more blunt words of Hughie, “This bunch from the pipeline cartel — what I call ’em — is just a bucket of snakes and you can’t tell which head belongs to which tail. Their damage control will be all deniability. They’ll say, well, that’s not our contractor . . . that’s not our this, not our that.”

Another courageous landowner is Vern Johnson, a quiet guy and polite to a fault. Vern also is persistent to the point of having said “no” forty times to pipeline representatives wanting access to his land.

“I saw that most of them were from Louisiana,” said Vern, who caught surveyors placing stakes on his property. Without a hint of anger or malice, Vern “offered to go down to Louisiana and drive a steel post into their land. Well, after they thought about that a bit, they came back and said they’d just pull out all the stakes they’d put on my land.”

One of the surveyors told Vern they were going to follow an existing pipeline easement on his property. “The only problem with that,” says Vern, “is I don’t have an easement for another pipeline on my property.” He even went to the county courthouse to verify that such was the case — another example of Dakota Access not being trustworthy.

Unfortunately, the pipeline company got its way. Vern was slapped with an injunction that allowed the surveyors to force themselves onto his land. Despite his gutsy persistence, Vern lost that battle.

And we may lose other battles. But we can and will win the war. Nebraskans have stopped the Keystone Pipeline. And it was just a couple years ago that a coalition of Iowa seniors, landowners and environmentalists stopped a nuclear power plant that would have been built with millions of dollars of rate-payer money. A few years earlier, we stopped two ill-conceived coal-fired power plants. A decade ago, I worked with landowners in several counties who banded together to stop their land from being taken for recreational lakes and essentially private airports.

Over and over again, when we stand strong and stand together, people can prevail against corporate and government power. I believe that will be the case with this pipeline – but it will take commitment, sacrifice and courage. I am willing to continue to push my own comfort zone in that regard (again, stay tuned for news on that later today), and I ask each of you to ponder what more you can do as well.

And please take a moment to call or write your state senator and ask him or her to support SF 506, the eminent domain bill now eligible for debate by the full Senate. Please call or write your state representative as well. And if you are not certain who represents you at the statehouse, go to find your legislator.

Listen to the Fallon Forum live Mondays from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Podcasts available after the show. Your input is welcome; simply call-in at (515) 528-8122. The program re-broadcasts Wednesdays on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 p.m.

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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