Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Eleven

Thursday, March 12, 2015 – North of Oskaloosa, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

Since last summer, it has been clear that Kelcy Warren’s company would push hard and fast to get the pipeline built as quickly as possible.

But walking across Mahaska County this week, I am learning just how aggressive they have been in making their sales pitch.

Talking with a farmer along the pipeline route.

Talking with a farmer along the pipeline route.

Today, I spoke with 12 landowners. About half were against the pipeline. Yet most feel there is nothing they can do to stop it.

One 60-year-old farmer who is dead set against the pipeline nonetheless signed a contract. The company paid him $60,000 for an easement to two acres, access to his property from the nearest road, and for the removal of nine mature cottonwood trees. (He was upset about the cottonwood trees because they provide shade for his cattle.)

But the money wasn’t the main reason he signed. The company official told him they would eventually get his land through eminent domain and he would get less money. The farmer described this sales rep as very slick, very aggressive. The rep would even call as many as six times a day, pressuring the farmer to sell.

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Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Ten

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 – Keomah Village, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

One thing I’m learning from landowners I meet along the way is that I am the first pipeline opponent most of them have heard from. They’ve had repeated phone calls and home visits from pipeline officials, who have been described to me as slick, persuasive and even aggressive.

As a result, landowners are getting a terribly lopsided perspective on the pros and cons of the proposed pipeline. Help change that by donating to support the Iowa Pipeline Walk. Click here today.

Ed walking down countryside, low largeI am very grateful for the tireless efforts of my coworker in Des Moines, Shari Hrdina, and for the many, many volunteers along the route who are helping to make this Walk happen.

I am grateful for the landowners involved with the lawsuit, and the expenses and effort they are willing to incur to do their part.

I am grateful to the organizations working through the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition for the excellent work they are doing.

And I am grateful to the Republican and Democratic lawmakers who are working on a bill that would curb the abuse of eminent domain. That bill could potentially stop the pipeline in its tracks.

It is clear to me that this Walk fills a niche that is instrumental in the concerted effort to stop the pipeline. It’s important that the conversations I am having with landowners not be the first and last they have with pipeline opponents. Click here to help make sure the outreach and dialogue continue. I am confident that if landowners have more information, less of them will be eager to sell out to the pipeline company.

Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Nine

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 – Fremont, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

Yesterday, nearly every landowner that I spoke with along the route was against the pipeline. Today did not go so well. I didn’t find as many people home, and three of those I talked with said almost the exact same thing: “It’s not coming through my property, so I really don’t care.”

Steve Martin, taking a break from the walk in the machine shed of pipeline opponent Randy Sieren, as Randy's grandson speeds by on his bike.

Steve Martin, taking a break from the walk in the machine shed of pipeline opponent Randy Sieren, as Randy’s grandson speeds by on his bike.

No matter what I could have told them, those folks weren’t going to give a darn about fossil fuel’s impact on the climate. They would have shrugged their shoulders in indifference had I told them that an oil spill would ruin Iowa’s drinking water. Instead, I pointed out that, if the pipeline running through their neighbor’s land broke, it could easily contaminate their own land and water as well. In one case, that argument resonated, a bit.

It’s discouraging to encounter such crass disregard to the problems of the world beyond the boundaries of one’s own property line. I have to remind myself that in any movement for social and political change, the majority of people never get engaged. Even in the most vibrant struggles – e.g., women’s suffrage, civil rights, Keystone Pipeline, etc – it takes the involvement of only 10-20% of the population to bring about meaningful change.

A stake marking the pipeline path where it would cross some of the flattest, most fertile farmland in the world.

A stake marking the pipeline path where it would cross some of the flattest, most fertile farmland in the world.

The fact is, I’ve met a lot more people who are opposed to this pipeline than who are for it. Continuing to build a broad, well-organized coalition that strengthens communication among pipeline opponents, and that deepens their level of involvement, is critical. I see that happening. And though all of us fighting to stop the pipeline will have days like today, we must remember that every step forward is more productive than standing still.

Today concluded with a side excursion to Washington, Iowa, where I did a radio interview, enjoyed dinner with a dozen friends at one of the best Italian restaurants in Iowa, Cafe Dodici, spoke to about twenty Washington County Democrats, and had an enjoyable overnight stay at the home of friends. So, yeah, today I met three apathetic people and two dozen who are ready to do their part. Life is good.

Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Eight

Monday, March 9, 2015 – Hedrick, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

I’m not unfamiliar with Iowa agriculture, but what Randy Sieren taught me today was beyond my previous experience. Randy farms 4,000 acres north of Ottumwa on some of the richest, flattest ground on the planet. Last year, he finished a seven-year project to “pattern tile” his land at a cost of $1,000 per acre. Randy’s carefully-mapped GPS analysis of every square foot of his cropland indicates the new tiling system is increasing productivity by as much as 30%. The investment will pay for itself within 10 years.

Well, that is, unless Kelcy Warren gets his way and runs an oil pipeline through nearly two miles of Randy’s cropland.

Ed and Randy Sieren examine his cropland maps

Ed and Randy Sieren examine his cropland maps

“That pipeline’s going to destroy what we’ve done,” Randy told me as we talked in his machine shed, and later that evening at the Community Center in Fremont. To assure the most efficient drainage, Randy runs tile every 50 feet. Warren’s company would have to break those tiles in order to install the pipeline. The company promises to splice them back together when they’re done.

But Randy and the landowners he rents some of his land from are not buying it. 

”It’s going to be like sticking your fork in a noodle bowl,” offered Randy. “That tile is like a plastic slinky, and their track hoe is going to dig into the ground and just grab it. And the ground around the pipeline will settle and sink, and my tile is not going to drain once that happens.”

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Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Seven

Saturday, March 7, 2015 – Bladensburg, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

“Are you out for exercise or are ya broke down?” asked the bearded man driving a white pick-up truck sporting a thick coat of mud. I laughed and said, “Neither,” as I explained that I was walking the path of the proposed pipeline. “I don’t much like what this Texas billionaire has in store for Iowa,” I probed.

The driver said, “There’s only about six people who are going to get rich on this thing, and none of them live in Iowa.” He owned land just up the road, not quite on the pipeline route. He was noncommittal on what he would have done had the pipeline company wanted to come through his land. But he agreed emphatically with me when I said the pipeline wasn’t going to improve anyone’s property values.

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Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Six

Friday, March 6, 2015 – Libertyville, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

The lure of money is powerful. How many people work at a job they despise simply for the paycheck and/or health insurance benefits?

As I meet landowners in southeast Iowa, I am reminded of this reality. Not many of them actually like the pipeline. But that combination of a cash payout and the resignation that you can’t fight Big Government and Big Oil grudgingly incline many landowners to allow the easement.

Still, I am meeting many landowners who are standing firm and willing to throw a wrench into billionaire Kelcy Warren’s pipeline plan. But it is clear that stopping the pipeline is going to take a broad coalition of Iowans concerned about property rights, water quality and climate change.

It’s encouraging to see the statewide efforts of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance group gaining members and momentum. And in southeast Iowa, the affiliated No Bakken Here group has a solid core of dedicated and hard working Jefferson County residents, who were instrumental in organizing a meeting in Fairfield last night, where I spoke to about 50 people.

Susan Chapin

Susan Chapin

Patrick Bosold

Patrick Bosold

With any luck, today will have the last day of walking in such frigid temperatures. It warmed up in the afternoon, but the prospect of the mercury climbing into the 50s and 60s makes me happy. Today, I was delighted to have Susan Chapin and Patrick Bosold join me for stretches of the walk. Susan had contacted the Ottumwa TV station, and a reporter met us out on the road for an interview. Check out the story here. And I  am grateful to Bob and Vicky Krause for putting me up for the night.

So many good, passionate people! You give me hope that our efforts will prevail. Thank you.

Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Five

Thursday, March 5, 2015 – Stockport, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

I was shocked to learn at last night’s meeting with Van Buren County residents that some landowners have not only reached an agreement with the pipeline company but have even received checks! I thought, “Why would the company pay landowners before the Iowa Utilities Board has even granted them the authority to use eminent domain?” Continue Reading →

Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day Two

Monday, March 2, 2015 – Montrose, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

Lee Co - Mississippi Bluff

Our road through the bluffs.

The first day’s walk couldn’t have been more perfect. Temperatures in the 20s, no wind, sunny, and I have walking companions. The 13.8 route winds along the Mississippi River, crosses the flood plain, then cuts through the bluffs before ascending onto the prairie. I try to imagine how the River and it’s beautiful, fertile landscape would be impacted if an oil pipeline broke here. Continue Reading →