Pipeline Trial Sets Precedent

Dear Friends,

The trial for pipeline-fighter Kriss Wells just wrapped up this afternoon. Kriss (pictured below) is a long-time resident of the Quad Cities and a retired social worker. Despite a strong presentation that focused on the climate justifcation for his nonviolent direct action, Kriss received a verdict of “guilty” in a jury trial today at the Boone County Courthouse. He was one of thirty pipeline opponents charged with trespass on August 31, 2016 while blocking vehicles from leaving or entering a staging area along Highway 30 east of Boone, and the only one of the group to plead “not guilty” and to request a jury trial.

Here’s the press release sent out earlier this afternoon as a cooperative effort between the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition and Bold Iowa. Please share and let’s get the word out! Thanks, and read on below the release for information about the Fallon Forum. – Ed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 7, 2017
Contact:
Kriss Wells: 563-343-3295, kriss444@aol.com
Carolyn Raffensperger: 515-450-2320, raffensperger@cs.com
Ed Fallon: 515-238-6404, ed@fallonforum.com

Pipeline opponent “guilty,” but trial sets precedent for justification defense

Boone, Iowa — Kriss Wells (pictured below), a long-time resident of the Quad Cities and a retired social worker, received a verdict of “guilty” in a jury trial today at the Boone County Courthouse. Wells was one of thirty pipeline opponents charged with trespass on August 31, 2016 while blocking vehicles from leaving or entering a staging area along Highway 30 east of Boone. Wells was the only one of the group to plead “not guilty” and to request a jury trial. The August 31 action was organized by Bold Iowa and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and drew over 100 participants.

“I’m certainly disappointed in the jury’s decision,” said Wells. “Court rulings have been all over the board in this pipeline fight, and I hope for a different outcome with my trial in Calhoun County on June 28. I did this in part for my grandkids and their future, and I’ll continue to speak out and take action.”

The plaintiffs see this case as setting a new precedent in Iowa. The defense explained its justification for trespassing by raising concerns about the urgency to address climate change, water quality and the misuse of eminent domain.

“Today climate change was on trial,” said Carolyn Raffensperger with the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition. “Kriss Wells was justified in challenging the Iowa Utilities Board’s permit allowing Dakota Access to build this crude oil pipeline, which will do irreparable harm to our climate and planet.”

“That action last summer marked a key point in the escalation of opposition to the pipeline,” said Ed Fallon, director of Bold Iowa. “It garnered national attention to our struggle. Kriss’ act of nonviolent civil disobedience and his decision to take his arrest to trial are statements of commitment and courage that continue to inspire others.”

Despite the oil beginning to flow last week, efforts to resist the pipeline continue, with a rally planned this Saturday in Des Moines, a flotilla on the Des Moines River in Boone County on June 17, and a protest against the Iowa Utilities Board on July 1.

# # #

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Spies Validate Our Success

Dear Friends,

If you spend 20 minutes reading anything this week, let it be this incredible story by The Intercept. In an age when independent investigative journalism is rare and threats against our liberty are growing, this is a must read.

The story reveals how a “shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures”.

Spying and infiltration focused on pipeline opponents mostly in North Dakota and Iowa. The story exposes how “TigerSwan spearheaded a multifaceted private security operation characterized by sweeping and invasive surveillance of protesters”.

Christine, Ed and Cyndy Coppola approach construction equipment at first BAT action on September 20, 2016.

When The Intercept contacted me I readily agreed to allow my name to be unredacted. Every freedom-loving, pipeline-fighting, land-defending patriot caught in TigerSwan’s web should be proud to be a threat to Big Oil.

Even though Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) says oil will begin to flow on June 1st, there’s no doubt our efforts have been impactful. Here’s an excerpt from one of TigerSwan’s reports describing our mobile Bold Action Teams (BATs):

Christine Sheller and Arlo blocking construction equipment at first BAT action on September 20, 2016.

“Bold Iowa’s BAT tactic was unfortunately successful today. Work was stopped at several sites and used up a lot of our resources…If the lockdown tactics of Mississippi Stand and the BAT tactics of Bold Iowa were to join forces it would severely impact our mission.”

And TigerSwan is still monitoring our activities! Here’s an anonymous tip I received yesterday:

“TigerSwan is definitely deeply imbedded in Iowa. They have upped all of their men between Fort Dodge and Sioux Falls. Hotels in the areas in between are filled with their crews.”

ETP is concerned what we, the People, still might do to resist their illegal pipeline trampling our Constitutional rights and threatening our land, water and climate.

Let’s give ’em something to worry about. Here’s a few upcoming events that I hope you’ll attend:

(Note: Regarding trials, always check the day before to confirm they’re still happening, as the Court often postpones a trial at the last minute.)

TigerSwan, we understand why you lurk in the shadows. But we have nothing to hide. Truth and history are on our side. The selfish motives of greedy men like ETP’s Kelcy Warren will be exposed. Our rights will be restored. Our sacred land and water will be protected. It may take time, but we’re in it for the long haul — persistently, prayerfully, nonviolently and respectfully.

Thanks for watching, TigerSwan. And now you know: We’re watching you, too.

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New IUB conflict revealed as DAPL request denied!

To those who say, “The fight against the Dakota Access pipeline is over, so just move on,” we pipeline fighters and water protectors say, “Not so fast!”

Lawsuit plaintiffs at a 2016 press conference

Tuesday, the Iowa Supreme Court sided with nine Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, rejecting Dakota Access’ request to have the landowners’ lawsuit dismissed!

The Court’s order reads: “Dakota Access contends this appeal should be dismissed because the appellant, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, has failed to establish proper standing in this matter and the remaining appellants’ claims are moot. Upon consideration, the motion to dismiss is denied. Dakota Access may raise the issues regarding standing and mootness in its appellate brief.”

The march after the landowners’ hearing at the Polk County Courthouse in December

Click here to read the complete order: 17. Order – Motion to Dismiss Denied

This is a really big deal. It means the case against the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) and Dakota Access will move forward, with a schedule for court filings being established and a trial likely later this year or early in 2018.

The Court’s order revealed another important and disturbing development. Richard W. Lozier, Jr. requested permission to withdraw as counsel for the MAIN Coalition — a front group for Dakota Access. The Court rightfully granted that request. What’s incredible is that Governor Branstad recently appointed Lozier to the IUB, filling the seat vacated by Libby Jacobs, despite this clear conflict of interest!

Richard W. Lozier, Jr.

If Branstad wanted to inflame pipeline opponents and encourage further criticism of the rampant corruption within his administration, putting Lozier on the IUB was the perfect way to do that.

Now the burden of defending this wolf-guards-hen-house appointment falls to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. It’ll be interesting to see how Reynolds responds. If she kowtows to Big Oil and keeps Lozier on the IUB, don’t be surprised if her Republican opponent(s) make hay with it leading up to next June’s gubernatorial primary.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 8

Saturday, April 29, 2017 – Pleasant Hill to Iowa State Capitol (7 miles)

It’s just under a seven-mile march from our church lodging in Pleasant Hill to the Iowa State Capitol for the People’s Climate Movement Rally. We set out on schedule and arrive at Sleepy Hollow for our break, just as it’s starting to rain.

Marching to the Capitol

We know we won’t stay dry for long, but take this opportunity to sit under the facility’s patio roof for our half-hour break. There’s a car out front, suggesting staff is present, so figure I’ll let them know we’re here. I try the door, and it’s unlocked, so I enter, to be greeted by a blaring security alarm.

I quickly exit the way I came in, apologize to other marchers as I make a lame joke about setting off the alarm about the climate crisis. I call the Des Moines Police Department, and the matter is soon resolved.

Donnielle Wanatee and Shelley Buffalo are the opening speakers, and Heather Pearson wraps up the rally. As with Donnielle and Shelley, Heather has been a solid leader on the March, and her speech is a powerful closing statement for both the march and the rally. Here’s what she had to say:

“I am an air breathing, water drinking, Iowa pipeline fighter. For the last seven days we have marched 85 miles across Iowa to discuss climate justice and unity with rural communities along the way. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone to agree to march 85 miles, but it’s not the first time that this fight has taken me outside of that comfort zone.

“Most Iowans have been opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline since it was first proposed three years ago. Last year, I was asked to give testimony in front of the Iowa Utilities Board at their meeting in Boone. I’d never been to Boone before and didn’t know a single person there. That experience forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.

“I told the Board that I find it appalling that they were so willing to trample Iowans’ private property rights while putting our air, our farmland, our water and our climate at risk just so that a private corporation can fatten its bottom line with an export pipeline.

Heather Pearson addresses rally. Photo by Jack Schuler

“In August, I got a call from Ed Fallon asking if I would be willing to risk arrest while participating in peaceful civil disobedience. I’d never been arrested before, or even had any interaction with law enforcement. In the days leading up to direct action I was anxious, and again had to step out of my comfort zone because I felt that it was my duty. I’d signed the ‘No Bakken Pledge of Resistance’ and the movement needed people power. I was handcuffed and taken away.

“Fast forward a couple of months. I met a farmer named Shirley Gerjets. Dakota Access had already begun construction on her property against her will even though she hadn’t had her day in court to fight eminent domain. As I stepped onto Shirley’s property, with her permission, I handed the Sheriff the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement signed by 188 climate scientists. I stated that it was my justification for being on that property.

“Of course, I was arrested yet again. I have pled not guilty and am now preparing to take my case to court since climate change is indeed justification for stepping onto a fossi-fuel easement.

“Again and again, I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone. You see, we must all step out of our comfort zones. We must all come together and raise our voices to hold our elected officials accountable for the decisions they’re making about our water, our air, our soil and our climate. Climate justice is a human rights issue. We must unite for climate justice. We must all step out of our comfort zones because that’s where real change occurs.”

 

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 5

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)

Chap Myers

We scramble out of our tents early today for the ride to Des Moines for Donnielle Wanatee’s trial. She was arrested for trespass at Governor Branstad’s office during the February 22 Day of Action Against DAPL. Donnielle pled “not guilty” and asked for a jury trial. The judge denied her request. Nevertheless, she persists.

It’s a miserable morning. The wind and rain make it impossible for our cook, Chap Myers, to keep the stove lit. Some marchers opt for a cold breakfast. Most of us end up at the Coffee Cup Cafe across the street, grateful that it opens at 6:00. With the cumulative exertion of four days of marching, my caloric output has surged to that of a college athlete. I order the menu’s largest breakfast, which finds its way into my fuel tank faster than civilized dining standards allow.

Jon Neiderbach and Donnielle Wanatee

Today, we’re an organized, efficient group and arrive on schedule at the Polk County Justice Center. When I enter the court room, Donnielle is already testifying. She comports herself with clarity and dignity. Jon Neiderbach, an attorney who marched with us for two days, represents Donnielle pro bono.

The trial is quick and predictable. The judge praises Donnielle’s commitment to clean water but finds her guilty of trespass. She wants a jury trial, but the judge had previously cited a procedural nuance that denies her this right. With Jonathan’s help, she appeals the judge’s ruling, insisting on her right to a jury trial. I’m proud of both her and Jon. It’s a great start to the day, and we haven’t even marched a step.

By early afternoon, we’re back in Sully to begin the day’s 10-mile trek. The rain’s stopped, and we again carry the American flag at the front of the march column. Isidra and Annie lead the way, taking turns as flag-bearer.

Marchers gather in front of Lois and Irving Vander Leest’s piano lawn art

Three miles from Reasnor, we meet Lois and Irving Vander Leest. Their farm is on the path of the pipeline, and it’s here that construction equipment was torched by an arsonist last August.

The Vander Leests strongly support the pipeline. Lois assures me she’s had no trouble with either the pipeline company or the workers. I’m candid with her about my opposition, based on concerns about climate, water and the abuse of eminent domain. We concur that arson is inexcusable, and she and Irving agree to join us for dinner tonight at the United Methodist Church in Reasnor. Before we set out from the Vander Leests’ farm, we pose for a picture in front of a piano cleverly repurposed as a lawn ornament.

Marchers pause for prayer as they cross the path of the Dakota access pipeline

Two miles from Reasnor we cross the pipeline. The scar from last year’s construction is still visible. We pray. Donnielle offers tobacco. It’s a solemn moment. I think of the 570,000 barrels of oil a day that will soon move through the ground under our feet. I remind other marchers that, despite the imminent flow of oil, if the lawsuit by nine Iowa landowners prevails, it could require that the pipe be removed, forcing Dakota Access to attempt a lengthy and complicated reroute.

Reasnor is a town of 153 people, and everyone we meet is friendly and helpful. The Methodist Church, with a congregation of eight parishioners, opens its doors to us for food and lodging. After dinner, some of us wander down to the D & T Tap, where Zach Ide, Heather Pearson and I break out our guitars. I play The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) and solicit a rousing response from the locals. Perhaps they appreciate the challenge of walking a long distance for an urgent cause. Perhaps I’m just making that up.

But one thing I know for certain: This march is connecting us in ways that we — marchers and locals alike — rarely experience. It’s easy to stay in one’s own social, cultural and online bubble. This march pushes us beyond that bubble and out of our comfort zone. It pushes us to confront the truth that their is no us vs. them. There is only we.

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Native Nations Rise!

Dear Friends,

The sad news is that oil may soon flow through the Dakota Access pipeline. But there are several silver linings in that dark, oil-soaked cloud.

First, the lawsuit filed by Iowa landowners against the abuse of eminent domain is on its way to the Iowa Supreme Court. In a recent Radio Iowa story, the attorney for the plaintiffs, Bill Hanigan, said “if eminent domain was improper, then all of the condemnation easements are invalid. If the condemnation easements are invalid, then that pipeline and all of the crude oil in it is trespassing.”

And what is the legal remedy to someone or something trespassing on your property? Removal! If the court rules in favor of the landowners, Dakota Access should be required to tear out all that pipeline and find an alternative route. It’s important to support these brave landowners, so stay tuned for more on that.

The other silver lining is that President Trump is indeed making America great again. It is so uplifing to see how many new people are getting involved in the fight to defend justice and our environment against the full-frontal assault led by Pres. Trump and the corporate crocodiles he’s let into the swamp he promised to drain.

One example? The great work being done by Kelly Quinn, Jenny Miller, Shelley Buffalo and others with the Meskwaki Nation. They’ve organized the RISE WITH STANDING ROCK NATIVE NATIONS RALLY – IOWA this Friday at 12:00 noon at the Iowa State Capitol. Please come support them — and deepen your own commitment to push back against state and federal actions whose real motive is to turn over more and more of our rights and tax dollars to the corporate oligarchy that has bought and paid for too many politicians.

Here’s the press release Bold Iowa sent out today. The original release can be viewed here. Please share it!

*******

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12:00 p,m, CT, Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Contact: Kelly Quinn, krb.quinn@gmail.com or (515) 657-0179
Contact: Shelley Buffalo, buffaloshelley@gmail.com or (319) 333-2844
Contact: Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa Director, ed@boldiowa.org or (515) 238-6404

Meskwaki Women Organize “Rise With Standing Rock” Rally 
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe calls for solidarity as they march in Washington

Des Moines, IA — On Friday, March 10 at 12:00 noon, members of the Meskwaki Nation and their Iowa allies will rally on the west side of the Iowa State Capitol building in solidarity with the Native Nations Rise march and rally in Washington, DC at the same time.

“I stood with Standing Rock in the fight to protect water and I stand with all Native nations for their right to self-preservation and sovereignty,” said Kelly Quinn, a Meskwaki woman who lives in Ankeny. “What Standing Rock showed us is that tribal rights, agreements and treaties need to be honored by the US government. We support tribal autonomy, oppose any more oil and gas pipelines, and advocate for clean energy to save our water and planet.”

“All of creation is equal and the Earth is our mother,” said Shelley Buffalo, a Meskwaki woman who lives in Iowa City. “We practice gratitude for the Earth for providing us with all that we need. That’s why we are the protectors. That’s why we stand in solidarity with our Native brothers and sisters across the country and with all who have come together to defend our land and water.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other grassroots Indigenous organizers have called upon other tribes and all their allies to join them on March 10 in Washington, DC and in events across the country as they march, pray and take action. Participants will lobby Congress for Indigenous Nations’ rights to tribal sovereignty and to protect their homelands, the environment and future generations.

“The fight against the Dakota Access pipeline has ignited a historic alliance that is just beginning to exercise its political muscle and moral authority,” said Bold Iowa director, Ed Fallon. “Friday’s actions in DC, in Iowa and across the nation are another indication that our strength and influence as a powerful coalition of Native communities, farmers, landowners and environmentalists is growing deeper and more connected.”

Fallon will not be at the Iowa event as he is traveling to Washington, DC with members of Indigenous Iowa and Bold Iowa to participate in the march and rally there. Bold Iowa Program Coordinator, Shari Hrdina, will attend the Des Moines rally along with Lyssa Wade, who will speak on behalf of Bold and her work with landowners along the pipeline route.

In addition to Bold Iowa, organizations partnering with the Meskwaki women spearheading Friday’s Des Moines rally include Indigenous Iowa, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Bold Iowa is part of the Bold Alliance, building a coalition of small-and-mighty groups in rural states to fight Big Oil, protect landowners against the abuse of eminent domain, and work for clean energy solutions while empowering a political base of voters who care about the land and water.

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Bold Iowa to Occupy Offices

Dear Friends,

Christine Sheller and Arlo blocking construction equipment during a BAT action last fall.

The Dakota Access pipeline isn’t finished. Tomorrow, here in Iowa, we’ll continue to stand with our allies at Standing Rock and with Iowa farmers, landowners, Native communities and environmentalists who have fought Dakota Access every step of the way. Public officials and businesses who’ve supported the pipeline need to hear that a 30-inch pipe carrying 570,000 barrels of oil a day is wrong for Iowa and wrong for our planet. Those who helped bring this catastrophe to our fields and waters need to know that we’re not done fighting.

So, if you haven’t yet signed up for a BAT tomorrow — Wednesday, February 21 — it’s not too late. Just respond to this message and we’ll hook you up with someone in your area leading an action. Here’s more detail, in the form of the press release we sent out this morning. (You can read the original release posted on the Bold Iowa website.​​)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Contact: Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa Director, (515) 238-6404 or ed@boldiowa.org

Bold Action Teams (BATs) to Occupy Offices
In at least 10 cities, teams of Iowa pipeline fighters, some risking arrest, will occupy offices of politicians and banks that have supported the Dakota Access pipeline 

Des Moines, IA — On Wednesday, Feb. 22 throughout the day during business hours, Bold Action Teams (BATs) will mobilize for a DAPL Day of Direct Action across Iowa, targeting officials and businesses that have aided and abetted construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Cities where actions will occur include Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Grinnell, Iowa City, Newton, Sioux City and Omaha, Nebraska. Some cities will see multiple teams and actions at several locations.

“The Dakota Access pipeline isn’t finished,” said Bold Iowa director, Ed Fallon. “Here in Iowa, we continue to stand with our allies at Standing Rock and with Iowa farmers, landowners, Native communities and environmentalists who have fought Dakota Access every step of the way. Public officials and businesses who’ve supported it need to hear that this pipeline is wrong for Iowa and wrong for our planet. And they need to know that we’re not done fighting.”

Bold Iowa’s BATs were formed last fall to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline at targeted locations across the state. Teams of five people mobilized repeatedly, preventing construction equipment from working up until the point where BATs were threatened with arrest. On one day in Calhoun County, BATs were able to stop construction for 7 – 8 hours.

As further evidence of the effectiveness of Bold’s BAT approach to protesting the pipeline, DAPL’s attorney, Bret Dublinske, wrote to the Iowa Utilities Board on December 19, 2016 that Dakota Access had been unable to finish work on the pipeline in 2016, “due to the 90 day regulatory delay from March 10, 2016 until June 7, 2016, as well as several incidents of trespassers interfering with construction work.”

“We know this approach worked to slow down construction of the pipeline,” continued Fallon. “Now we’ll see how well it works to disrupt business-as-usual for the politicians who backed the pipeline and the banks that financed it.”

Bold Iowa is part of the Bold Alliance, building a coalition of small-and-mighty groups in rural states to fight Big Oil, protect landowners against the abuse of eminent domain, and work for clean energy solutions while empowering a political base of voters who care about the land and water.

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DAPL Contractor Reaches Out

Dear Friends,

Recently, Heather Pearson was contacted by a former DAPL contractor, who said to her:

Heather Pearson, leading the chants at the Women’s March in Des Moines.

“I have the highest respect for what you and others are doing to protect the environment. Truth be told, I really had no idea about the concerns involving the pipeline, or knew much about it at all. Boy, was I in for a shock!

“Regarding Dakota Access, I’ve never had a position working for such a morally bankrupt entity. I struggled with it everyday. You always hear about corruption in large corporations, but when I witnessed it firsthand…WOW!

“When my contract ended, I was so relieved to be out of work. I did get to meet a lot of wonderful people over the course of my contract. I also learned a great deal about DAPL and how they do business. Like I said, I have the highest respect for you and others like you. Keep up the good work! Keep up the fight! You have support in unlikely places!”

Heather’s conversation, and the fact that the contractor reached out to her, is nothing short of amazing.

The contractor also told Heather that DAPL was so concerned about our “BATs” — the Bold Action Teams we mobilized last fall to stop construction — security formed special units to respond to the BATs. How’s that for validation that our efforts were effective!

In sharing this story, Heather writes: “Once people realize that this is just a corrupt, private corporation that wants to ship its toxic sludge to the export market via our farmland and watersheds, people tend to oppose the project. We must keep up the fight. We must continue to spread the message. We must take time to talk to people and combat the mountains of disinformation out there. We have to make our voices heard. It works!”

Heather’s story is a reminder that everything we do makes a difference. It’s also a reminder that, in the spirit of nonviolence, we must always show kindness and respect toward workers, law enforcement and security personnel.

Ed Fallon

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Rally to Protest Trump Decision on Pipeline

Dear Friends,

If you live in Iowa, please join us Saturday, January 28 for a big event (that’s tomorrow!). Bold Iowa and Indigenous Iowa are collaborating on a rally to protest President Trump’s decision to fast-track the Dakota Access pipeline. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is partnering with us to spread the word. We need to show unity among farmers and landowners, Native communities and all of us concerned about climate, water and the abuse of eminent domain.

Let’s make it clear to President Trump and Dakota Access that we aren’t giving in and will continue to fight this pipeline!

WHAT: Rally to Protest Trump Decision on Dakota Access
WHEN: Saturday, January 28, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: Neal Smith Federal Building, 210 Walnut St., Des Moines

Landowner Shirley Gerjets in front of Dakota Access Pipeline built on her land taken by eminent domain.

Landowner Shirley Gerjets in front of the Dakota Access pipeline, being built on her land which was taken by eminent domain.

On Tuesday, President Trump took action to fast-track completion of the Dakota Access pipeline.

To be clear, this action does not immediately authorize construction to resume, nor does it automatically grant the remaining permits needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But one thing is clear: the President’s action signals his intent to move the Dakota Access pipeline forward — despite concerns about climate, water and eminent domain.

We cannot and will not sit back and do nothing. A vocal, public response is needed. Join us on Saturday to send the strongest possible message that we won’t remain quiet and we aren’t going away!

Bold Iowa continues to petition the Army Corps to include Iowa in its environmental analysis. Click here to sign the petition: http://bit.ly/dapleis.

I hope to see you tomorrow!

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Florida farmers robbed through eminent domain

Dear Friends,

[Read the original article here: BOLD IOWA WEBSITE LINK HERE]

Banner welcoming visitors to the Sacred Water Camp near Live Oak, Florida and the path of the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline.

Banner welcoming visitors to the Sacred Water Camp near Live Oak, Florida and the path of the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline.

“Water is Life!” A cry started in the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline has become a national rallying cry in the growing movement to beat-back Big Oil. Pipeline fights across the country have brought the reality of the importance of water home to millions of Americans. More and more are jumping on board, working to protect water, land, property rights and our climate from the largest build-out of fossil-fuel infrastructure in America’s history.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, I had the honor of spending two days working with tireless water protectors in northern Florida, battling the Sabal Trail Pipeline. At one of two camps set-up to help organize water-protection efforts, I met a woman who shared this story with me:

About 50 people stay at the Sacred Water Camp opposing the Sabal Trail pipeline.

About 50 people stay at the Sacred Water Camp opposing the Sabal Trail pipeline.

“I headed out recently to get produce for our camp, which has grown to fifty water protectors. We stopped at a farm stand about 30 miles from here at the Georgia-Florida line. We were buying a lot of food, and haggling a bit with the farmers, trying to stretch our donation dollars as far as possible.

“The family running the stand wasn’t very friendly at first. They asked me why we were buying such a large quantity of produce. I was a little hesitant to tell them, since I thought they might be for the pipeline. I said we were from the Sacred Water Camp, and we had a bunch of new people showing up that we had to feed. Then I took a chance, and told them that the whole purpose of our camp was to stop the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

One of the Sacred Water Camp’s organizers: Debra Johnson, nearby landowner and long-time local resident.

One of the Sacred Water Camp’s organizers: Debra Johnson, nearby landowner and long-time local resident.

“Well, one of the people working the farm stand, a young woman around 23, lit up, saying that the pipeline was wreaking havoc in Florida. Her father and brother, also working the stand, started going on about how strongly they opposed the pipeline and the abuse of eminent domain.

“They told us they grow oranges. They didn’t want a pipeline running through their grove, so the pipeline company took their land by force, through eminent domain. The company gave them $6,000 for destroying land that produces $1 million a year in orange sales! They were outraged, and couldn’t believe their government could let this happen. The father point-blank told me there was nothing in the eminent domain negotiations about giving them fair market value for crop loss. They felt robbed. Their land was gone, part of their family-farm business was gone. This is a fifth-generation orange grove, dating back to 1900, and their family had never seen anything like this.”

Pipeline fighters Connie Byra, Adam Dubbin (holding camera), Lisa Kay, Anita Stewart and Janet Barrow (not pictured) monitor the Sabal Trail pipeline company extracting water from the Withlacoochee River.

Pipeline fighters Connie Byra, Adam Dubbin (holding camera), Lisa Kay, Anita Stewart and Janet Barrow (not pictured) monitor the Sabal Trail pipeline company extracting water from the Withlacoochee River.

True story, and frightening. This fight cuts deeper than water, climate and individual property rights. If a bought-and-paid-for government can hand over the power of eminent domain to a powerful private business that can give a fifth-generation family farm a pittance in compensation for a $1 million loss, is there anything still sacred in America?

This fight is only going to get more challenging with Donald Trump as President. Not only does President-elect Trump deny climate change and disparage the importance of protecting water and land, but he has personally used eminent domain for his own private gain.

Action is the antidote to despair. And building a strong, broad, outspoken, well-organized coalition of farmers, landowners, Native communities, environmentalists and defenders of liberty is how we push back and win against the escalation of Big Oil’s war on America.

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