Join the BIRDS!

Dear Friends,

WANTED: Climate patriots to join BIRDS.

Yup, BIRDS. That stands for Bold Iowa Relentless Dog Squad. We’re assembling a squad of supporters to persistently “bird-dog” presidential candidates about Bold Iowa’s agenda. Voters have a right to know if candidates will:

German Wirehaired Pointer (Bold Iowan) with Ringneck Pheasant (Presidential Candidate). Ok, that’s going too far. (Photo: Steve Oehlenschlager)

— Mobilize for an all-out assault on climate change;

— Oppose the expansion of oil pipelines, fracking, and other destructive fossil-fuel projects;

— Stand with Indigenous communities to defend their sovereignty, land, and water;

— Stop the abuse of eminent domain;

— Push for non-industrial, distributed generation of renewable energy, and

— Support legislation like the Green New Deal, and Carbon Fee and Dividend. (Thanks to The Climate Mobilization, Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby for their national leadership on these initiatives.)

SIGN UP TO JOIN BIRDS TODAY!

Bernie Sanders

I’ve bird-dogged presidential candidates since 1987. It works! Back then, a coalition of Iowa peace groups convinced five of six Democratic candidates to support a nuclear test ban and oppose the dangerous Trident missile system.

More recently, we witnessed the power of bird-dogging in the 2016 presidential election. In November of 2014, Charles Goldman and I asked Bernie Sanders where he stood on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sanders hadn’t made up his mind. Over the next year, anti-DAPL Iowans bird-dogged him relentlessly. Not only did Sanders eventually come out against DAPL, he ran ads leading up to the Iowa Caucuses touting his opposition.

Trump supporters eye us as we plan a “Rosie the Riveter” action during our work with The Climate Mobilization in 2015. From left: Peter Clay, George McCloskey, Kristy Medo, Miriam Kashia, and Ed Fallon. (Not pictured: Barb Schlachter. Photo: Shari Hrdina)

Whether a candidate is a Democrat or a Republican, bird-dogging is effective. In 2015 at the State Fair, Shari Hrdina filmed my conversation with Mike Huckabee about DAPL and eminent domain. We had similar conversations with Rand Paul and Chris Christy and landed some excellent coverage.

Our most memorable bird-dogging experience in 2015 was when five of us got tossed from a Trump rally in Waterloo after challenging then-candidate Trump to promise to fight climate change.

The 2020 campaign is noteworthy because of the sheer volume of Democratic candidates running or likely to run for president. Iowans who understand the urgency of the climate crisis not only have an opportunity but an obligation to plug into the Caucuses and make our voices heard. There is probably no other forum where our bang-for-the-buck is greater.

So, tell me you’re ready to join BIRDS, and that you’re willing to work with other Bold Iowa supporters in your community to make sure every candidate for president hears from us at every stop they make. Soon, we’ll be offering trainings to get folks up to speed on bird-dog style and content.

Polls show that Bold Iowa’s agenda resonates with a clear majority of Iowans. Let’s make sure the presidential candidates know that, too.

Ed Fallon, director, Bold Iowa

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DAPL lion underestimates Iowa Lambs

Dear Friends,

For those who feel Big Oil always gets its way, think again. In a battle of Lamb vs. Lion (read on and you’ll see what I mean), the little guy and gal just accomplished something impressive.

Judy and Dick Lamb with a photograph of their Boone County farm before the Dakota Access Pipeline came through.

When the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was still under discussion, most Iowa landowners I met as I walked the pipeline route were against it. In the end, many signed voluntary easements — not because they wanted to but because they felt they had no choice.

Dick and Judy Lamb, whose farm in Boone County was bisected by DAPL, opposed the pipeline from the start. They continue to do so, and their steadfastness just paid off. Literally.

Yesterday (Wednesday, January 16), the Lambs achieved an important victory against DAPL. In district court in Boone, Iowa, after a trial that lasted seven days, a jury ruled in favor of the Lambs, ordering DAPL to compensate them for the lost potential of their property due to the pipeline.

In 2016, the Lambs refused to sign an easement with DAPL for access to their land along Highway 30, two miles from the city limits of Ames. While the Lambs had not developed the property themselves, it struck them as grossly unfair for DAPL to take that opportunity away from them and their children, who would inherit the land. They believed that a hot pipeline would render their property unsuitable for many types of potential development. The Lambs had raised this issue with DAPL prior to being forced into condemnation, but the company refused to recognize any developmental potential for their land.

So the Lambs took DAPL to court. “We knew it would be an uphill fight against a highly proficient, specialized legal team,” Dick told me in an interview after the trial. “Their attorneys travel the country doing just this type of litigation, so they’re probably the best in the business. In fact, after they presented their case at the trial, I wondered whether we’d get anything at all.”

In one of many recent David-vs-Goliath lawsuits pitting pipeline opponents against Big Oil, the Lambs prevailed — at least to their satisfaction. “The jury awarded us $250,000,” said Dick. “We’d asked for $900,000, and out of the $250,000 reward comes the $90,000 we received after our condemnation hearing in 2016, and roughly another $50,000 in legal expenses. That doesn’t leave us a lot, but we certainly count it as a victory.”

The Lambs went on to note that, for technical reasons not easily explained, this particular lawsuit addressed the pipeline damage to just half of their land along Highway 30. There likely will be another trial this summer regarding the other half.

Both Judy and Dick said the experience of the trial helped restore their faith in the legal system. They were impressed that the jury remained attentive through hours of highly technical presentations on land-valuation issues, and after six hours of deliberation, issued a fair ruling.

Any day now, the Iowa Supreme Court will issue its ruling in Puntenney v. Iowa Utilities Board — the lawsuit filed by nine landowners and the Iowa Sierra Club over the Board’s decision to grant eminent domain to a private pipeline company. This landmark case isn’t the only legal action pending against DAPL. Other Iowa landowners have filed suits over soil compaction, ruined terraces, tile damage, and uncompensated crop loss.

I asked Dick and Judy how they felt about the threat of either a second pipeline coming through their land or the possibility that DAPL would increase the amount of oil it pumps through the existing pipeline. “Either of those options is a scary thought,” said Judy. “For now, the big picture is we showed that it’s possible to beat DAPL in court. That should give hope to other landowners who have lawsuits pending.”

Indeed, though the Lambs’ trial received little fanfare and almost no mainstream press coverage, their victory is a big deal. It’s further indication that the tide is turning against Big Oil and the politicians who do its bidding. The Lambs’ efforts should inspire all of us to persevere — and to support the landowners, farmers, and Native communities on the front lines of this and other fossil-fuel infrastructure fights.

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Bakken oil flows through Iowa to China

Dear Friends,

First, to folks living close to Davenport, Iowa City, or Cedar Rapids, I’ll discuss my just-released book, Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim at three separate events in eastern Iowa this weekend. Please come, and visit the Bold Iowa website for details about the book and tour schedule.

Rural Iowa can’t catch a break with President Trump. The trade tariffs threatened to inflict a $2.2 billion hit to Iowa’s economy. Farmers dodged that bullet, only to learn this week that China wants to resume importing US crude oil.

That’s bad news for landowners living along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) wants to expand capacity along the route. With expanded capacity comes greater risk to Iowa’s soil and water — and to Earth’s climate.

That fact was driven home emphatically last week by the National Climate Assessment, which warned of catastrophic impacts to our health and economy as the climate crisis worsens. Maybe President Trump considers the thirteen federal agencies that put together the Climate Assessment purveyors of fake news. They’re not, of course, and here’s a related, irrefutable slice of non-fake news:

ETP lied when it told Iowans DAPL was for domestic consumption!

Farmers and landowners remember that lie. Native communities along the route remember. The rest of us who fought against the pipeline remember. We presume the Iowa Utilities Board remembers, too.

Corroboration of ETP’s deception is abundant, as indicated in this story from September 1, 2016, by The Intercept: “The company claimed in a presentation in Iowa, a state that granted approval for the project this year, that the pipeline will feature ‘100% domestic produced crude’ that ‘supports 100% domestic consumption.’”

Over 200 march in Des Moines in frigid conditions on December 14, 2016, in support of the landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit.

The Intercept’s story goes on to say, “The domestic energy claim, which has been touted by company brochures and a pro-pipeline website, has also been used to criticize hundreds of demonstrators in North Dakota who say the Dakota Access endangers drinking water and threatens sites that are sacred to a number of Native American nations and tribes.”

It’s crystal clear that ETP all along intended DAPL to serve its private interests, not the public good. The claim that DAPL is “critical infrastructure” is, like ETP’s domestic consumption pledge, a bald-faced lie.

Keith Puntenney and Carolyn Raffensperger speak at a rally after the Iowa Supreme Court hearing on DAPL, September 12, 2018.

It’s time for Governor Reynolds, Iowa lawmakers, and especially the Iowa Utilities Board to call out ETP for its destructive, costly ruse. Hopefully, too, the Iowa Supreme Court understands that DAPL’s permit was granted under false pretenses. The Court’s ruling on the landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit against the misuse of eminent domain to build DAPL could be issued soon. Stay tuned.

— Ed Fallon

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Utilities Board rules against DAPL!

Dear Friends,

First a quick reminder about two events happening in Des Moines today and tomorrow (and check out our conversation about them on the second half of this week’s Fallon Forum):

— Wednesday, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Thoreau Center (3500 Kingman Blvd in Des Moines), the Middle East Peace Education Coalition is sponsoring a talk by Rabbi Brant Rosen titled “Anti-Semitism: the Reality and the Myth.”

— Thursday, 5:00-7:00 p.m. on the west side of the Iowa State Capitol, Iowa CCI is organizing a rally and concert to raise concerns about the World Food Prize’s focus on GMO crops and industrial agriculture vs organic production and family farms.

So, just when you think there’s been enough big news on DAPL, along comes more. Yesterday, in a decision favoring petitions filed by the Northwest Iowa Landowners Association (NILA) and the Iowa Sierra Club, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) ruled: “Dakota Access, LLC, shall file information describing how it will comply with the Utilities Board’s requirement that it maintain $25,000,000 in general liability insurance coverage for the benefit of affected parties in Iowa.”

This is significant! Dakota Access tried to weasel out of the liability commitment it made when it received a permit two years ago, and the IUB said, ‘NO’! (Kudos to Board members Geri Huser and Nick Wagner for voting in favor of the ruling.) Dakota Access argues that its commitment of $25 million is for an oil spill in any of the four states DAPL passes through (Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, and North Dakota). The IUB’s ruling makes it clear that the $25 million commitment must be specifically for Iowa.

I spoke with John Murray of NILA this morning. John’s a Storm Lake attorney who has been active in defending landowners along the pipeline route since the beginning. John says, “If you look at what happened in Kalamazoo Michigan, where an oil spill reached a major water body, if we had something like that happen in Iowa, $25 million isn’t going come close to covering it. The $25 million requirement was an outgrowth of criticism that NILA and the Iowa Sierra Club raised regarding the risk of an oil spill. If Dakota Access fails to provide this coverage for Iowa the next logical step is for the IUB to revoke the permit.”

So, yeah, this ruling is a big deal. But it’s important to keep it in perspective. In a joint press release put out today by Bold Iowa and Indigenous Iowa, Christine Nobiss, director of Indigenous Iowa, said, “Twenty-five million dollars is nothing. Clean up of the 2010 oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan cost over a billion dollars. People who live there are still getting sick and dying. No amount of insurance can cover the full damage of a major oil spill. We need to assure the IUB continues to stand up to Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).”

The IUB has given Dakota Access 21 days to comply with its insurance requirement. But really, we’ve been playing Russian Roulette. For sixteen months, DAPL has run close to half a million barrels of oil a day across our land and waterways without having even the minimum amount of insurance the IUB required. Dakota Access and its parent company, ETP, argue that the risk of a spill is minimal. Well, just this week, an ETP pipeline in Texas leaked into Button Willow Creek and Canyon Rock Lake. This one was a relatively small spill.

Next time, it could be worse. Next time, it could be Iowa.

Ed Fallon

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ALERT! Another oil pipeline is in the works!

Dear Friends,

In a world where it seems that most news is bad news, I’m sorry to have to pile on. But it’s better to know the truth than to live in denial — and if the truth doesn’t always set you free, it at least let’s you know what you’re up against and gives you a fighting chance to push back.

So, here’s the bad news: Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is planning to lay a second pipeline across Iowa!

Last week, I received an anonymous call from a long-time professional in the oil industry. I’m by nature cautious and not inclined to believe claims that aren’t well founded. So, I spent close to three hours on the phone with the caller. I also did a whole lot of additional research to corroborate what they told me.

Sorry to say, but their claim adds up. Just as ETP was quiet about DAPL #1 in 2014 — not letting the public know until it had bought off Iowa’s political establishment and had its ducks in a row — ETP wants to keep this new pipeline under wraps as long as possible.

We can’t let that happen! If we are to defeat this new pipeline, we have to start organizing NOW. One of Bold Iowa’s next steps is to determine what exactly ETP has to do to site the new pipeline, since it’s not immediately clear what existing easements allow.

Beyond that, there are three things YOU can do to help. Here’s our call to action:

1. Ask state and federal candidates running for office in Iowa if they support or oppose a second Dakota Access pipeline running diagonally across Iowa. We especially need to know where the candidates for governor and US Congress stand, but also candidates for the state legislature. Ask them (documented with a video if possible), let us know what they say, and we’ll spread the word so voters know.

2. Donate to Bold Iowa. We need your financial support to keep this fight going. Please consider a monthly donation as that gives us the solid base we need to focus on our work. We already spend way less time fundraising than most non-profits, and our monthly donors make that possible.

3. Share this press release through your social media connections and with any member of the mainstream media you have a connection with. Here’s a link to the release and the full text:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 10, 2018, 11:00 a.m. CT

Contact: Ed Fallon at (515) 238-6404 and ed@boldiowa.com or Christine Nobiss at (319) 331-8034 and cnobiss@gmail.com.

Inside source indicates second oil pipeline planned for Iowa
Credible source within oil industry says twinning of DAPL in the works

Des Moines, Iowa —  Bold Iowa’s director, Ed Fallon, revealed today that, over the past week, he has had extensive contact with a highly credible source within the oil industry who informed him that Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) intends to build a second pipeline along the existing easement through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.

“I’m by nature cautious and not inclined to believe claims that aren’t well founded,” said Fallon. “So, I spent close to three hours on the phone with the caller. I then did my own research and their claim adds up. Just as ETP was quiet about the first DAPL in 2014 — not letting the public know until it had bought off Iowa’s political establishment and had its other ducks in a row — ETP wants to keep this new line under wraps as long as possible so farmers, landowners, Indigenous communities, and other opponents have less time to respond and fight back.”

Fallon says his source’s information is supported by recent developments. A Jamestown Sun story two weeks ago indicated that the “Bakken Formation has reserves of 30 billion to 40 billion barrels of recoverable oil, or roughly four to five times more than the government’s latest estimate.”

On top of that, according to a Dallas News story out this week, “Growth in the Permian {Basin in West Texas} has, in fact, been shrinking, down almost every month this year, while declines in older wells are trending higher, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.”

“From ETP’s point of view, if you couple the economic realities that favor Bakken oil with the political reality that a change in leadership in Washington, DC is inevitable, it makes sense that ETP would want to move quickly and aggressively to expand its capacity significantly,” Fallon said.

Bold Iowa and Indigenous Iowa have worked as partners in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline for over two years. “As we push back against the abuse of eminent domain, the acceleration of climate change, and the threat oil pipelines pose to our land and water, it’s essential that the voices of Iowa’s Indigenous leaders are heard and taken seriously,” concluded Fallon.

Indigenous Iowa raises awareness about the devastating effects that oil, gas, and coal have on the environment, particularly on Indigenous lands where government-backed corporate conglomerates practice predatory economics and exploit communities. Indigenous Iowa promotes the development and implementation of renewable energy through the worldview of Indigenous ideologies.

Bold Iowa builds rural-urban coalitions to fight climate change, prevent the abuse of eminent domain, protect Iowa’s soil, air and water, and promote non-industrial renewable energy.

# # #

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An amazing group of people

Dear Friends,

As greedy fossil-fuel tycoons escalate their abuse of eminent domain to steal our land, foul our water, and destroy our planet, we must push back with all the strength and commitment we can muster. Standing Rock became a visual manifestation of our commitment to not back down, and we who were empowered through Standing Rock continue to fight for our future.

In the face of such an enormous crisis as climate change, we must think big and act big. One huge opportunity to make a difference is the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March. On Saturday, September 1 following a 9:00 a.m. press conference at the Iowa Utilities Board building at 1375 E. Court Ave in Des Moines, marchers will set out from Birdland Park at 10:00 a.m., tracking the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline for nearly 100 miles. The March finishes in Fort Dodge on Saturday, September 8 in conjunction with the international Rise for Climate day of action with a Celebration of March at 1:30 p.m. at City Square Park.

The March is organized by Indigenous Iowa and Bold Iowa. It offers an important opportunity to come together and show the world that we won’t back down, that we’re not going away, that we’re in this fight until we achieve justice for all people and sustainability for our Earth.

We march in support of the nine Iowa farmers and Sierra Club who filed a lawsuit against DAPL for abusing eminent domain to build the pipeline. If we win this lawsuit, it could stop the flow of oil from north of Standing Rock all the way to central Illinois!

We also march as a living, moving example of how people can find common ground and create a sustainable future, and to recognize what happened in the past to the Indigenous peoples of this land. The March is, in part, a statement as to why it’s essential that we recognize the sovereignty of Indigenous people today.

We’ll march 10 – 15 miles a day. We’ll camp at farms and in parks. Our power source is a solar collector. We’ll use a trailer designed with environmentally-friendly commodes and solar showers. We’ll eat lots of fresh, locally-grown food from farms that are part of the new vision for agriculture. Farmers, environmentalists, and Indigenous leaders will have deep conversations on a level that, if not unprecedented, is certainly unusual — and critically important.

The people participating in this March are truly an amazing group of individuals, including:

  • Manape LaMere, one of the seven headsmen from Standing Rock;
  • David Thoreson, the first American to sail both directions through the northwest passage while documenting climate change’s impact on the Arctic;
  • Donnielle Wanatee, a Meskwaki woman who stood up against the Dakota Access Pipeline over four years ago — before most people had even heard of the pipeline;
  • Fred Kirschenmann, an organic farmer known internationally for his work on sustainable farm policy;
  • Christine Nobiss, a Plains Cree-Salteaux woman who has earned national recognition as the founder of Indigenous Iowa, and who also works with Seeding Sovereignty;
  • Debbie Griffin, an urban minister whose church in downtown Des Moines is focused on social justice and environmental stewardship.

That’s the short list. The Indigenous, farm, and environmental leaders who’ve come together to make this powerful statement have much to offer.

If you can join the March for a day, please do. Come to our kick-off on September 1, our rally at the end of the March on September 8, and for dinner and conversation in our camp every evening at 5:30 p.m.

Better yet, if you’re able and willing to march, grab a good pair of walking shoes and come march with us.

If you can’t be with us in the flesh, please support us with a donation. A grassroots effort like this needs all the financial help it can get. And yes: spread the word! Like Standing Rock and the many endeavors that have sprung from it, this march has the potential to ignite a prairie fire, one that spreads a message of strength and healing for ourselves and our planet.

— Ed Fallon

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My Endorsements in Iowa’s Democratic Primary

Dear Friends,

First, it should come as no surprise that Gov. Reynolds signed SF 2235 — the bill pushed by the pipeline company. Years ago as an elected official in Clarke County, Reynolds stood with big developers against farmers and landowners who were fighting to protect their land from eminent domain for a lake. By signing SF 2235, the Governor made it clear that her loyalty is to Big Oil — not farmers, landowners and our environment.

Thus, Bold Iowa’s work moves from lobbying to education, building awareness about the Landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit. Click these two links to learn what you can do to get involved:

Stop Eminent Domain Abuse Roadshow

2018 Climate Justice Unity March

And if you’re unclear about the urgency of the climate crisis check out this article and this article about the crazy warm temperatures in the Arctic and how that’s connected to the Upper Midwest’s coldest spring ever. SERIOUSLY! If you have any doubt about how important is this moment in history, please read at least one of these articles.

(These two screen shots were taken at the same moment last week. That’s North Pole, Alaska, not THE North Pole. But you get the point.)

Climate change isn’t the only factor I consider in deciding which political candidates to support, but it’s the most important. I’m encouraged to see so many good candidates running for office and talking about climate change. On a host of issues, we’re desperate for new blood, bold ideas, and progressive leadership.

With that in mind, here are the folks I’m endorsing in the June 5 Democratic Primary Election:

Cathy Glasson

GOVERNOR: In a crowded field, Cathy Glasson stands out. She’s worked in the trenches for years, standing up for everyday folks and fighting tirelessly for the best interest of working Iowans. I’m confident we’ll see the same kind of leadership from Cathy as governor.

I’m also confident Cathy can win. Establishment Democrats want you to believe we’ve got to nominate a “moderate” backed by big money. Really? Because that worked so well with Hillary Clinton, Bruce Braley, John Kerry, Staci Appel, etc, etc. As Bernie Sanders demonstrated in 2016, voters are hungry for leadership that puts people ahead of corporate interests and the entrenched forces of political stagnation.

Cathy’s got the right stuff going on in spades. And yeah, she’s got a solid statement on climate change, too. I hope you’ll join me in supporting her and getting involved in her campaign.

Deidre DeJear

SECRETARY OF STATE: Deidre DeJear is a breath of fresh air and will make a fantastic Secretary of State. She’s got a strong background in small business ownership and knows the importance of making sure the Secretary of State’s office is a welcoming place for people hoping to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality.

On the elections side, in 2012 Deidre “developed and implemented a program to educate, motivate, and mobilize low-propensity voters, which resulted in over 5,000 new registrants and more than doubled African American turnout.” That’s from her website. And in terms of being accessible, Deidre has always responded to my calls and inquiries with enthusiasm.

Thomas Heckroth

CONGRESS (IA-1): Thomas Heckroth‘s opponent in the Democratic Primary, Abby Finkenauer, is a big supporter of the Dakota Access Pipeline, so this endorsement is easy. Heckroth’s stand on climate is solid. He writes, “Climate Change is also a threat to global security and must be a factor in United States foreign policy. Whether it is forced migration due to rising sea levels or whole cities running out of water, global security challenges will continue to crop up due to climate change.”

Thomas also writes, “As we transition away from fossil fuels, we must finally end the unnecessary and unaffordable subsidies that we provide to major fossil fuel companies. There is no reason why we should continue to incentivize coal, gas, and oil companies when we have the tools to move forward with clean, renewable sources of energy.”

Eddie Mauro

CONGRESS (IA-3): Eddie Mauro received my endorsement early this year and I’m doing everything I can to help him win the nomination. Eddie and I go way back, meeting at a homeless camp where he was providing food and supplies.

Besides his deep compassion for those in need, Eddie has one of the strongest positions on climate change of any congressional candidate in the country. He writes, “Decades of delay have allowed global warming to become a global emergency. Climate is impacting all our continents. Time is now of the absolute essence, and we have a small window to revolutionize the global economy before our basic life-support systems collapse.”

Not only is Eddie solid on climate change, but he’s got the best chance of beating David Young. We can’t risk another two years of a Republican Congress, nor two years of a do-nothing Democratic Congress. Eddie will work hard and for the right stuff.

JD Scholten

CONGRESS (IA-4): JD Scholten is vocal on issues that matter and his campaign is resonating beyond Democratic voters. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s raised more money than incumbent Congressman Steve King.

On climate change, JD writes, “The burning of fossil fuels is creating more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere can handle. This is scary stuff. I wish this was an issue we could deal with in 20 years, but it’s not. There are a number of things we need to do to combat climate change. Carbon farming is one that hasn’t been talked about enough, and Iowa is uniquely positioned to lead the way. This takes excess carbon out of the air and puts it into our soil. In each acre of land, there’s about an elephant-sized amount of organisms that use this carbon. This benefits and strengthens the soil by creating organic matter. Carbon farming is a win-win.”

Connie Ryan

IOWA SENATE (DISTRICT 21): Through her work with the Iowa Interfaith Alliance, Connie Ryan has been a leader in advancing LGBT equality, religious tolerance, and the fight against racism. Connie also helped create Justice Not Politics to protect our courts. Her advocacy hasn’t focused much on climate, but we’ve talked and she understands the urgent nature of the crisis.

Beyond that, her opponent, Claire Celsi, is difficult to work with. I offer that based on experience spanning nearly twenty years. Connie might have a learning curve on climate and environmental issues, but I’m confident that as a lawmaker she’ll be accessible and responsive.

John Mauro

POLK COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS (DISTRICT 5): John Mauro is a quiet, behind-the-scenes guy. He’s done a heck of a lot as a Supervisor to make Polk County government a leader in providing critical services to people in need. John’s opponent, Matt McCoy, is running an aggressive campaign to unseat Mauro. But my experience with Matt over the years has not been favorable. In fact, just two weeks ago, Matt promised he would offer an amendment to SF 2235 to remove the Dakota Access Pipeline from the definition of “critical infrastructure.” He drafted the amendment, then mysteriously withdrew it. I twice asked for an explanation and didn’t get a response.

That’s been my experience with Matt over the years: cordial when you run into him, but unresponsive when the rubber meets the road. I’ve heard that from others, too. With John Mauro, I know I’ll always get my phone calls returned and questions answered. That counts for a lot.

*******

And now, a mea culpa: In my blog last week, I referenced a story about the Standing Rock court ruling. I thought it had just happened, yet it was from last year. Ouch. Note to self: check sources more carefully, even when they appear to be reliable.

*******

This week’s Fallon Forum was hosted by Charles Goldman and Ed Fallon, with special guest David Houston of Homes 4 My Peeps. Here are the segment titles:

– When I grow up, I want to be compost
– It’s not “if,” but “when” will Trump be impeached
– What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic
– Kansas’s failed tax-cut scam catches fire in Iowa
– Latest U.S. bombing in Syria gets mixed reviews
– Pushing back against banks that finance pipelines

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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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Demand Repubs Pay Harassment Settlement

Dear Friends,

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION!

Kirsten Anderson, the Iowa Senate Republican staffer fired during the Statehouse scandal involving a toxic “boys club” environment of lewd jokes, vulgar comments and inappropriate remarks about women’s bodies, had her day in court this week. Kirsten won and the jury awarded her $2.2 million!

Kirsten Anderson

Kirsten won. Women won. Justice won.

But alas, Iowa taxpayers lost. We’re the ones now stuck paying the tab.

That ain’t right. And it doesn’t have to end like this. For sure, Kirsten deserves every penny of the settlement. But there’s an alternative to soaking the taxpayers.

Typically, when a party is found guilty and ordered to pay fines and restitution, that party pays. Not someone else. Certainly not an innocent bystander.

If Senate Republicans believe all their talk about fairness, if their clamor to cut taxes isn’t simply a cloud of political hot air, they’ll dig that $2.2 million out of their collective campaign pockets. We know it’s there. But do they have the integrity to do the right thing?

I’m not holding my breath. Politicians are known for clinging to wads of cash like an eagle clutches a dead fish. I suspect it’ll take an outpouring of public pressure to get them to respond.

So, what are we waiting for!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THIS PETITION! Thank Senator Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) for speaking out against the Senate leadership’s culpability in this scandal. (See Des Moines Register story here.) Encourage Bertrand and Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) — rumored to be considering a leadership challenge to Majority Leader Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock) — to demand that Senate Republicans and the Iowa Republican Party pick up the tab.

I’m elated the court ruled with Anderson. I’m encouraged to see Iowa jurisprudence come down on the side of justice. Now let’s demand justice for Iowa taxpayers, too!

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The buzz continues from the important rally and concert organized earlier this month by Indigenous Iowa and Bold Iowa. Check out the collage of photos and videos Shari Hrdina has assembled, including summary video by Rodger Routh.

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