The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) meets again tomorrow, and while it’s impossible to say for sure, this could be their final public meeting before ruling on whether to grant Dakota Access a permit to build the Bakken pipeline. Along with that permit would come the authority of eminent domain – it would be unprecedented for a private, for-profit corporation to receive the Government’s blessing to take land from rural Iowans against their will.
But there’s a wrinkle in the pipeline company’s plans. Awhile back, I challenged all of you to become “intervenors” in the process. Some did right away. Some waited, including Kriss Wells. Kriss came all the way to Des Moines from Davenport last week to attend one of the IUB meetings. When the IUB’s Nick Wagner said he didn’t want to take a stand on climate change because it might ruin his political future, Kriss thought that was appalling – and possible grounds for a conflict of interest.
So, Kriss filed a “Motion to Recuse” Mr. Wagner from the vote on the pipeline, arguing that:
“The issue of Climate Change has been raised by multiple parties in this hearing process. It was designated as an issue by the board in their outline for hearing briefs. It is a critical issue for the future of our environment.
“Public officials are expected to be fair and impartial in their decisions regarding the public trust. Mr. Wagner has indicated that he cannot meet this standard.”
In support of Kriss’ motion, Wally Taylor of the Iowa Sierra Club filed an additional motion providing still more clarity as to why Mr. Wagner should be recused from voting. Writes Wally:
“If Board Member Nick Wagner is going to base his decision on his future political career, he is violating his duty to base his decision on the facts and the law.”
Wally then goes on to point out how strongly the Iowa Supreme Court has spoken out against conflicts of interest, specifically referencing Wilson v. Iowa City, 165 N.W.2d 813, 822 (Iowa 1969).
It’s hard to say what will come of this new wrinkle, just as it’s hard to say whether the IUB will make a decision on the pipeline tomorrow, or push the matter further down the road. At any rate, come if you can: February 19 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at 1375 E Court Ave in Des Moines. You also can live stream the proceedings online. And I’ll live tweet and “face-tweet” commentary on my Facebook Page as well. Thanks,