Ed Fallon arrested after sit-in at governor's office over Bakken pipeline (updated)

Former state lawmaker Ed Fallon is in police custody tonight after he refused to leave Governor Terry Branstad's office at the close of business today. Fallon went to the governor's office this afternoon demanding a meeting to discuss "eminent domain legislation that would help landowners along the path of the Bakken Oil Pipeline." More details are in a press release I've enclosed after the jump. Branstad's legal counsel Michael Bousselot came out to talk with Fallon, who insisted on a meeting or phone conversation with the governor himself. Brianne Pfannenstiel reported for the Des Moines Register,

When the statehouse closed at 5 p.m., Iowa State Patrol troopers approached Fallon and asked if he would be willing to leave, or be arrested for criminal trespassing. Fallon declined to leave, so he was escorted out of the building and arrested outside.

A supporter posted on Facebook this evening that Fallon has a "jail support team attending to all his needs" and "will probably be released sometime tomorrow." When Fallon served in the Iowa House from 1995 through the 2006 session, land use issues were a focal point of his legislative efforts. During and since that time, Fallon has opposed various proposals to use eminent domain to seize farmland for use in for-profit ventures. Earlier this year, he walked from the southeast corner of Iowa to the northeast corner along the proposed pipeline route to raise awareness and mobilize landowners and others who oppose the project. The No Bakken website and Facebook page represent a coalition of some two dozen non-profit groups that oppose the project.

The eminent domain bill Fallon wants Branstad to support is Senate File 506 (previously Senate Study Bill 1276), which passed the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee on May 6 with support from Democratic State Senators Rob Hogg, Brian Schoenjahn, and Kevin Kinney, and Republican Jack Whitver. Branstad warned state lawmakers in January not to "get politics into this" debate over the pipeline. The governor wants to leave the decision to the Iowa Utilities Board, which is considered likely to approve the pipeline. The Sierra Club Iowa chapter plans to fight the project before every state and federal agency that would be involved.

UPDATE: Fallon was released from jail the same evening he was arrested. In a press release I've posted below, he says he's due in court on May 27 and hasn't decided "what legal route to take yet."

Press release posted on the Fallon Forum website:

1:30 p.m. Monday,  May 18, 2015 - Governor's Office, Des Moines, Iowa

Fallon Sits-in at Governor's Office to Stop Bakken Pipeline

Former lawmaker will stay at the Governor's office until

Governor meets with him, agrees to support eminent domain bill

Today at 1:30 p.m. CDT, former Iowa lawmaker Ed Fallon entered Governor Branstad's office at the Iowa State Capitol and asked to speak with the Governor regarding the eminent domain legislation that would help landowners along the path of the Bakken Oil Pipeline. Fallon informed the Governor's staff that he would refuse to leave the office until Governor Branstad met with him in person or on the phone and agreed to help pass the bill.

"Historically, the Governor and I have supported strengthening Iowa's eminent domain law to protect private property from private, for-profit development," said Fallon as he sat waiting to speak with Branstad in the Governor's office. "We also have both been critical of Big Oil, who the Governor has rightfully criticized for trying to weaken Iowa's pioneering efforts in ethanol and biodiesel."

Last month, Fallon completed a 400-mile walk across Iowa, following the path of the proposed pipeline and meeting with landowners. Every day of the 40-day walk, he blogged about the experience and shared stories of the people he met along the way.

"The Governor needs to hear the stories of some of the hundreds of Iowa landowners who are adamantly opposed to having their land taken for this pipeline," continued Fallon. "I believe that when their voices have a chance to touch his heart, he will agree to help move the eminent domain bill forward in the final days of this year's legislative session."

Fallon's May 19 press release:

Iowans Deserve Answers From Branstad on Pipeline Legislation, Fallon Says

A day after being arrested for sit-in protest, former Iowa lawmaker encourages Iowans to engage in their own principled acts of conscience to protect air, land, water and people

Des Moines, Iowa -

Ed Fallon is out of jail after he was arrested last night during a sit-in protest at Governor Branstad's office, and the former state representative says the Governor still owes Iowans an explanation about his position on pending eminent domain legislation at the Statehouse.

"By continuing to remain silent, Governor Branstad gives the perception that he approves of an out-of-state Big Oil corporation using his administration to condemn private farmland," Fallon said.

At the beginning of this year's legislative session, Branstad warned lawmakers not to interfere with the Iowa Utilities Board permitting process. But grassroots pressure from farmers, environmentalists and others have forced some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to buck Big Oil and Big Labor interests to draft and debate legislation that could place additional restrictions on eminent domain powers for the project.

Fallon's first public remarks after his civil disobedience arrest yesterday also included a call to action for all Iowans to take principled acts of conscience and vigil, rally, demonstrate, sit-in, lobby and speak-out to stop the Bakken oil pipeline.

"During my walk across Iowa this year, I was inspired by the courage shown by family farmers fighting this pipeline and I sincerely believe that now is the time for all Iowans to take principled action to stop the pipeline," Fallon said.

Fallon is due to appear in court on Wednesday, May 27 at 1pm.

"I'm exploring my options and haven't made a decision about what legal route to take yet," Fallon said. Iowa trespass law contains a necessity exemption, and the looming climate-change crisis and pending eminent domain legislation in the waning days of the 2015 legislative session could form the basis for a necessity defense.

  • Bipartisan opposition to use of eminent domain for the pipeline

    I emailed my state rep, Brian Best, one week ago asking him to support legislation that would prohibit use of eminent domain for the pipeline. He responded:

    I agree with you and will support.

    He made a similar promise at a legislative forum on April 25.

    • these land use matters

      have always crossed party lines at the legislature. I don't know whether House leaders would bring the bill up for a vote, though.

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