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.