Illinois Supreme Court gets it right on eminent domain

Dear Friends,

As the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline moves from countryside to courtroom, from protest to litigation, pipeline opponents in Iowa have yet another reason to be optimistic.

Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) — the Texas company proposing a 500-mile wind transmission line across Iowa and Illinois. The Court ruled unanimously that RICL is not a public utility and does not have the right to use eminent domain. Click here to read the entire ruling.

Regardless of your opinion on wind transmission lines, the Illionis decsion’s ramifications for Iowa are huge.

Keith Puntenney

To quote directly from the ruling, RICL must “own, control, operate or manage, within this State, directly or indirectly, a plant, equipment, or property used or to be used for or in connection with the production, transmission, sale, etc. of one of the specified commodities or services. Second, it must own, control, operate, or manage the plant, equipment, property, franchise, etc. ‘for public use.’ Rock Island fails to meet the first of these requirements.”

Keith Puntenney — an attorney and Webster County landowner whose property was taken by Dakota Access — points out that: “When it comes to eminent domain, Iowa law is very similar to Illinois law. In the case of the Dakota Access pipeline, no services are provided to the Iowa public. In fact, Dakota Access’ ‘product’ will not come back to Iowans at a lower cost than already exists. The only economic advantage from the pipeline inures to private parties, NOT the Iowa public at large. The Illinois case further strengthens our argument that oil and gas pipelines are not public utilities and should never have the authority to use eminent domain.”

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

And here’s what Iowa State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) had to say about the ruling: “The Illinois court got it right when it sided with landowners. The court made it clear that corporations that aren’t public utilities shouldn’t be given the power of eminent domain, whether the merchant line in question is carrying wind or oil.”

In short, last week’s ruling in Illinois is a big deal! Iowa’s pipeline fight isn’t over! We’ve moved from education to lobbying to protest, and now to the courts. The appeal filed by Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club continues to move forward. Briefs and rebuttals are currently being submitted, and we expect the Iowa Supreme Court to hear the case early next year.

If, over the past three years, you’ve taken action to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline — whether you testified before the Iowa Utilities Board, wrote a letter to the editor, attended a hearing, donated money, marched or engaged in direct action — your voice and your presence are needed now more than ever.

So please: STAY INVOLVED! The Illinois ruling’s relevance to Iowa is significant. Let’s continue to raise our voices against the abuse of eminent domain, against the threat this pipeline poses to our water and land, against the damage this oil is doing to Earth’s climate.

Each week, I’ll ask you to take a specific action. Today, I ask you send a letter to the editor of your local paper, referencing some of the points presented in this blog. If you need additional information or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at ed@boldiowa.com. And send me a copy of the letter you write. Thanks!

Ed

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Stand With Landowners Against the Pipeline

Dear Friends,

For me, the week that Lyssa Wade and I spent at Standing Rock was a life-changing experience. If you missed any of my daily blog posts, you can read them here:

Day 1: Our Arrival
Day 2: Surviving the Blizzard
Day 3: Building Standing Rock
Day 4: Dakota Access’ Smiling Face
Day 5: Building Solar Barns
Day 6: Water is Life

(Lyssa wrote a daily blog as well, and you can read those here.)

The other life-changing experience for me during this pipeline fight came last year, when I walked the pipeline route in Iowa. It wasn’t the walk that was transformative, it was meeting so many amazing farmers, landowners and others rooted in this beautiful land we call home. To read those blogs and hear the stories of some of the people I met, click here and Next–> to scroll.

All across the country, men and women of good faith continue to stand with our Native allies at Standing Rock. We must also continue to stand with the farmers and landowners who have fought this pipeline for over two years, often at great personal expense of time and money.

Please join us on Thursday, December 15 for what is shaping up to be a big event. There is growing national interest, too. (Check out the interview I did with Ed Schultz.)

Here’s the detail:

WHAT: Stand in Court with Iowa Landowners vs. Dakota Access
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 15, 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Polk County Courthouse, Des Moines
HEARING: 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. (Come early!)
MARCH: 11:00 – 11:30 a.m. (led by tractors)
RALLY: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Cowles Commons

Click here to RSVP and to receive updates on #NoDAPL actions in Iowa: http://boldiowa.org/event/dec-15-stand-in-court-with-landowners-vs-dakota-access-eminent-domain.

I want to thank the organizations partnering with Bold Iowa on this important action, including the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

In addition to hearing from the attorney representing farmers and landowners, the court will also hear from the Sierra Club, Iowa Chapter. The Sierra Club has challenged the Iowa Utilities Board’s decision to issue a permit for Dakota Access to construct a hazardous liquid pipeline across Iowa. They cite concerns about the alleged necessity of the pipeline, potential impacts to the environment from oil spills and the impacts of climate change.

Needless to say, dress warm. Join us as we stand united to stop the Dakota Access pipeline that is trampling sovereign rights, abusing eminent domain for private gain, and threatening our land, water and climate.

Thanks!

Ed Fallon

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Pipeline Opponents Will Continue Fight

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
3:00 p.m. CST – Thursday, February 11, 2016

Contact:  Ed Fallon, 515-238-6404 or fallonforum@gmail.com
Kathy Holdefer, 515-491-8468 or kholdefer@hotmail.com
State Rep. Dan Kelley, (641) 521-9260 or dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov
Pam & Bill Alexander, (641) 682-5905 or wha-lex55@hotmail.com

Pipeline Opponents Will Continue Fight
Vow to remain vigilant, active, engaged

DES MOINES — Iowa pipeline fighters commended the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) for taking further time to deliberate on Dakota Access’ request for a permit to build a crude oil pipeline across 350 miles of prime Iowa farmland. It is uncertain how the process will continue to unfold, but after a week of IUB meetings, pipeline opponents made it clear they will continue to be involved, vigilant and outspoken.

“I continue to be proud of how far we have come in resisting this attack on Iowa landowner rights as well as on our soil and water,” said Kathy Holdefer, a Jasper County landowner whose land is just a few hundred yards from where the pipeline is proposed to run. “I think Dakota Access thought it would bulldoze us through this process, similar to how they want to bulldoze our land. We will continue to fight this until we drive this out-of-state, private company out of Iowa.”

“I commend the board members for taking further time to address this unprecedented and extremely damaging proposal,” said Ed Fallon, a former lawmaker who walked the length of the proposed pipeline in 2015. “Some board members’ comments concern me. But much of their inquiry is spot-on. And staff have done a decent job at presenting not just Dakota Access’ view point but the perspective of opponents as well. The fact that board members are willing to further slow down the process is encouraging.”

“I’ve opposed this project on behalf of Jasper County farmers and landowners from the beginning,” said State Representative Dan Kelley (D-Newton), who attended the IUB meeting today. “Our environment must be protected from spills – both catastrophic and chronic. Our addiction to oil may be fatal, and our focus must be on clean renewables.” Kelley wouldn’t speculate on the IUB’s eventual decision, saying it could go either way.

“Our whole family is affected by this,” said Pam Alexander, whose family owns land in Mahaska County that would be compromised by the pipeline. “It’s been nerve-wracking, not knowing what’s going on from one step to the next. It seems like we landowners are almost second-class citizens when it comes to our role in this pipeline. But I am at least glad the Board is taking time making a decision.”

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