Industry’s New Colonial Outpost: Rural Iowa

Dear Friends,

Two things before I explain why Iowa is becoming a colonial outpost:

First, I’m sad to say that the pro-DAPL bill (SF 2235) passed this week despite hundreds of Iowans contacting their lawmakers. Visit the Fallon Forum and Bold Iowa websites for news coverage and to learn how your senator and representative voted. The silver lining is that Bold Iowa’s coalition of environmentalists, landowners, farmers and Native allies worked with labor unions on a common cause. Let’s build on that!

Second, check out this week’s Fallon Forum. Among other topics, we talk with two of the five climate warriors who shut down the flow of tar sands oil in 2016. If you missed the previous week’s program, check out our conversation about gun violence, sustainable farming, and why the job of Secretary of State is important.

Janna Swanson with Ed Fallon at the Blue Daisy Cafe in Ruthven.

Colonization never goes well for the colonized. It went badly for the Indigenous peoples of this continent. It’s gone badly for people in “third world” countries we’ve pillaged. And it’s going badly for rural Iowa.

Yup. A new wave of colonization is in full swing. Perhaps in the twittering storm of political scandals and legislative hubris you haven’t noticed. But rural Iowans can’t help but notice as the forces of colonization steamroll their farms and communities.

Here are the most egregious examples (and yeah, the acronym spells “PLOW,” for what that’s worth):

PORK. There are 15,000 hog confinements (CAFOs) in Iowa. Given the soaring foreign demand for pork, state officials say that number could jump to 45,000! America’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, is now owned by a Chinese corporation. Smithfield will get rich exporting pork to China while rural Iowans are stuck with foul air, lower property values, contaminated water, a decline in quality of life, and continued depopulation.

LAND. Foreign ownership of farmland in the US is rising. Foreign entities now control an area larger than Tennessee! Fortunately for Iowa, our law prevents foreign ownership of farmland — but powerful forces want to change that.

Some new turbines are as tall as two football fields.

OIL. The Dakota Access Pipeline carved a 350-mile scar across Iowa, damaging topsoil and threatening our water for a Texas corporation’s export crude oil pipeline. As I’ve warned, don’t be surprised if Big Oil tries to build a second pipeline through Iowa.

WIND. Industrial Wind Installations (IWIs) are meeting greater and greater local resistance. More are in the works and problems associated with the turbines are fomenting extensive and impassioned local resistance.

Perhaps that last item took you by surprise, coming from someone who cites climate change as the gravest threat to life on Earth. I’ve always been disturbed by any concentration of economic power, though in the past I’ve grudgingly given wind energy a pass because of the urgency of the climate crisis.

Janna Swanson with the Coalition for Rural Property Rights

To be clear, we absolutely need to move beyond fossil-fuel consumption as quickly as possible. Energy conservation, reducing consumption, and sequestering carbon are three of the most important actions we can take.

We also need a robust and rapidly expanding renewable energy portfolio. The backbone of that portfolio must be solar — and solar must be controlled by individuals, communities, family farmers, and small business owners. There’s room in that portfolio for wind, too, but not the centralized industrial model that increasingly dominates more and more Iowa counties.

While a handful of landowners are making money leasing their land for turbines, monopoly control of wind is wreaking havoc on rural landscapes and the people who live and farm there. In February, I traveled to Palo Alto County to visit Janna Swanson, a leader with the Coalition for Rural Property Rights. Palo Alto residents are suing MidAmerican Energy and Invenergy over a massive 340-megawatt project near Emmetsburg. There are 268 residences in the target area — yet only 24 have signed a contract to allow turbines on their land!

IWI opponents cite visual blight, shadow flicker, noise, flashing lights, pressure, turbulence, the impact on farming, and the risk to bats and birds. A separate blog could be written about each of these concerns.

While the scientific and medical impacts of IWI’s continue to be hotly debated, one thing is clear: the vast majority of people who live nearby don’t want them. That needs to be respected. When proposing an IWI, decision makers must give far greater consideration to local concerns than they do at present.

“Some people live next to a turbine and don’t have a problem,” Janna told me. “For others, there’s a cumulative effect. Take the intense pressure and turbulence. You can feel it when you’re standing nearby, almost like it’s grabbing at your heart.”

Janna says many Iowans complain that they can hear the turbines inside their home at night, even with a white-noise machine cranking away. It’s affecting their health. In some places, long-time residents have had to sell their home and move because of health problems attributed to the turbines.

A group of Palo Alto residents is suing to have the Palo County wind project stopped. Plaintiffs are preparing for an April 27 court date. The case is likely to end up before the Iowa Supreme Court.

Right now, 37% of Iowa’s electrical generation comes from wind. From the perspective of reducing fossil fuel consumption, that’s encouraging. But it comes at a heavy price for rural Iowa. It’s a price we shouldn’t have to pay given the more sustainable and less invasive options available.

As I said earlier, with Iowa’s land protected from foreign ownership, we effectively have a moratorium on that element of colonization. Perhaps it’s time for moratoriums on CAFOs, IWIs, and crude oil pipelines, too. That would carve out some space for us to have a deep, democratic conversation about what Iowa should look like in 50, 100 or even 500 years. Perhaps the original victims of this land’s colonization, Native Americans, could lead and direct that conversation.

One thing is emphatically clear to me: eminent domain should NEVER be used to condemn land for transmission lines to ship Iowa’s wind to Chicago or the East coast. An effort to use eminent domain by the Rock Island Clean Line (another Texas corporation) was defeated last year. Given the money and political power behind IWI, don’t be surprised if another proposal surfaces.

Regardless of where one stands on pork, oil, or wind, we should all agree that it’s wrong to ignore the voices of rural Iowans in order to export our resources to distant ports — whether those ports lie on Lake Michigan, the Atlantic Ocean, or the China Sea.

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Pipeline bill passes despite strong grassroots opposition

Check out coverage of SF 2235’s passage and write a letter-to-the-editor in response. Contact Ed Fallon if you need to know more about what’s involved with submitting your letter. If you know of other news outlets that picked up the story, let us know. As of April 5, here’s the coverage we’ve seen so far:

Cedar Rapids Gazette
Des Moines Register
Mason City Globe Gazette
Quad-City Times
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

To see how your State Senator voted, scroll down to page 852 of the Senate Journal for April 3. To see how your State Rep. voted, scroll to page 685 of the House Journal for March 27. Special thanks to Sen. Rob Hogg and Rep. Rick Olson for offering amendments to assure that severe penalties for sabotage don’t apply to peaceful, non-violent protestors.

We’re deeply disappointed that no Senator or Representative offered an amendment to eliminate a crude oil pipeline from the definition of “critical infrastructure.” We’re grateful for the strong coalition of organizations that opposed the bill, especially some of Iowa’s leading labor unions, who worked tirelessly in opposition to the anti-free-speech provisions of the bill.

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A New Year, A New Bold

Dear Friends,

Things may appear the same on the surface, but Bold Iowa is a markedly different organization than it was last year. Regrettably, the story is filled with broken promises. Bold Iowa’s supporters deserve to know what happened. So here goes.

In 2014, Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb and I worked together when the Great March for Climate Action crossed Nebraska. In 2015, Jane joined me for a portion of the Pipeline Walk across Iowa. She approached me about expanding Bold here, and in March of 2016, Iowa became the first of four states to join the Bold Alliance.

Launching Bold Iowa together made so much sense. With my deep network of contacts built during three decades of political action, we jump-started Bold Iowa quickly. Jane’s connection to national funders landed a significant annual commitment to Iowa for five years. In return, the funders asked for a five-year commitment from me. I recall the funny conversation with Jane that sealed the deal. She asked if I could commit or if I was on the verge of becoming a full-time chicken farmer instead.

Our work went incredibly well. Bold Iowa received extensive state and national media coverage as we helped lead the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. By the end of the first year, we’d grown the Bold Iowa Facebook page to over 9,000 and built a strong grassroots donor base. Jane and I talked nearly every day, and the rapport among our core team was positive and upbeat.

The turning point came when Jane called me in November of 2016 to tell me she was thinking of running for chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party. She asked my opinion, and I told her candidly that I felt noone could direct a growing, multi-state, grassroots organization and run a state political party.

Jane ran for chair, won, and almost immediately our regular communication stopped. In mid-April of 2017, she called to tell me she was disbanding the network (she didn’t — only Iowa and Oklahoma got the ax), and Iowa’s last day as part of the Alliance was May 31. I was stunned. I asked her about the five-year commitment. She denied there had ever been such a commitment, even though our five-year plan is referenced multiple times in email exchanges.

This break-up would have been more manageable if Jane had allowed Iowa to keep the resources we’d developed: our Facebook page, email list, donor list, and website. Last May, she kept going back and forth on what, if anything, she would allow us to keep. In the end, she presented conditions that were impossible to accept and we were left with nothing.

After working for over a year to brand “Bold Iowa,” I wasn’t about to ditch what so many people had worked hard to create. So last June, I incorporated Bold Iowa with the Iowa Secretary of State, purchased a new domain name, and created a new website and Facebook page. The transition has been stressful, frustrating and slow.

I don’t mind being sued by fossil-fuel companies (twice in one year now), politicians, or others who put greed and power ahead of the common good. But it’s painful to be at odds with someone who’s on the same side of the fight. For three years, Jane and I had built a solid working relationship. I will always have great respect for her organizing skills. But what she did to Iowa is unconscionable. Worse, it’s counter-productive to the very goals and values she stands for.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to bring this matter to closure. I sought legal representation in Iowa and later in Nebraska. I wrote to Jane multiple times last month about why it was in our mutual interest to share the resources we developed. No response.

The bottom line is this: injustice — even if it’s an injustice committed by someone fighting for a just cause — must be challenged. Those of us struggling for a better world have to be brave enough to hold each other accountable.

So, if you want to be involved in rebuilding Bold Iowa, we could sure use your help. Visit our new Facebook page and website.

If you’d like to donate, use this link. (Some of you have tried to donate on the Bold Alliance site, but we’ll never see a penny of that.) With the all-important court case brought by landowners and the Sierra Club likely to come before the Iowa Supreme Court this spring, your involvement and support are needed now more than ever.

While we’re on the subject of calling out injustice even when it’s uncomfortable, check out the conversation on this week’s Fallon Forum (above) about workers getting sick at the TPI wind-blade factory in Newton. We absolutely need new power sources to move beyond fossil-fuels, but what’s happening with industrial wind raises grave concerns. Give the program a listen, let me know what you think, and please help me build our audience by subscribing to the Fallon Forum on iTunes or Stitcher.

Listen to the Fallon Forum live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 96.5 FM and 1260 AM (central Iowa).

Outside of central Iowa, listen here: FALLON FORUM LIVESTREAM AND PODCAST.

– Listen on other local affiliates:
– KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA)
– KICI.LP 105.3 FM (Iowa City, IA)
– WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks!

Ed Fallon

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My 2018 “WRAPs”

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! So far, so good. Let’s hope this deep winter cold continues to tromp the life out of some of Iowa’s most despised insect pests.

I’m excited about our first talk show of 2018. On this coming Monday’s Forum, we’ll talk with Des Moines Register investigative reporter Kevin Hardy. Hardy and Grant Rodgers wrote about workers at Newton’s wind blade factory who were sickened by chemicals. Listen live from 11:00 – 12:00 noon in Des Moines on 96.5 FM or online in the known universe.

Against the wisdom of better judgement, here are my Wishes, Resolutions and Predictions (WRAPs) for 2018, wrapped up in one tidy mess. If you want to make a game out of it, circle W, R or P indicating whether you think the item is a wish, resolution or prediction. If you get the most correct answers, I treat you to lunch on Ground Hog Day.

1. Trump will no longer be president by the end of 2018 . . . but with Mike Pence ready to assume the mantle, don’t don the party hats quite yet. W R P

2. The growing threat of climate change will become so evident that the full-scale mobilization humanity needs to survive will finally commence. W R P

3. Democrats will regain control of the U.S. Congress but not the Iowa Legislature . . . unless the IDP embraces an entirely new image and direction. W R P

4. Landowners and the Iowa Sierra Club will win their lawsuit against Energy Transfer Partners, and that victory will have huge ramifications not just for the Dakota Access pipeline but for other eminent domain battles. W R P

Over 200 march in frigid conditions, December 14, 2016.

5. I will finish my book, which way less than half of you will read and slightly more than half of you will like. W R P

6. Winter will mostly end by February 1st, regardless of what any groundhog says. W R P

7. By the end of the year, the Fallon Forum will air on twelve stations. W R P

8. Tom Brady will again win the Super Bowl, with the rest of the New England Patriots roster doing its bit part to help Brady out. W R P

9. I will not walk more than twenty miles at a time. W R P

10. A bear, a cougar, and a moose will walk into a bar in Des Moines, and . . . W R P

Ok, so that last one is in a class by itself. But I won’t be surprised to see at least one of those critters make it’s way into Polk County this year.

At any rate, we’ve got work to do on a number of levels, especially in response to the growing crisis of climate change. Remember to support the local businesses that make the Fallon Forum possible. I hope to see and/or hear from all of you in the New Year. Yeah, even you, Troy.

Onward! – Ed

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