Julie Russell-Steuart is a printmaker and activist who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus. The Iowa House is expected to debate an eminent domain bill (House File 565) on March 22.
Currently, we have a robust nonpartisan movement of people backing legislation that would restrict the use of eminent domain to construct carbon dioxide pipelines across Iowa.
The latest Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom shows an overwhelming majority of Iowans—82 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Republicans, and 79 percent of independents—are against letting corporations use eminent domain for a land grab to build pipelines. Most Iowans realize these corporations do not have their best interests in mind. From the devaluing of our century farms to the strong risk of a rupture that would endanger lives and health, Iowans have been speaking up about these risks all over the state.
As legislators, it is your duty to think of how we can work together for the common good of Iowa. To me, that means putting people and our precious land resources first, especially when combined with a significant chance to protect the environment by moving away from the dependence on fossil fuels. We can pass House File 565, which would restrict the use of eminent domain for pipelines, and make small inroads toward the clean energy picture in Iowa. We are already a leader in wind energy. But all that may become irrelevant if we sacrifice health and land to a corporation's greed.
This bill is only a step along the way, but an important step. We need people like you to be courageous and think outside the boxes that appear to be walling us in: whether it is the fear of change in the ethanol industry, or the fact that this is a Republican-led bill, or the very small number of temporary union jobs that might be created to build pipelines. Think of the whole picture, not a bottom line in a corporation's balance sheet.
The picture includes:
People's lives and health: the risk is well documented
Soil and water health: the risk is well documented
Crop loss in the future: the risk is well documented
Iowa's rural communities have not gained vitality as ethanol production has increased, as this essay by Don Ray illustrated.
Another risk is well-documented, especially by this recent poll by Ann Selzer. If Democrats and Republicans cannot work together on issue when a majority of Iowans are concerned enough about land, livelihood, and health, there is a risk that ordinary people will completely disengage with political processes. That's not good for us, or Iowa.
Shouldn't Democrats be concerned with that?
Why can't we say to Iowans, “We represent you to the best of our abilities. We care about your health, land, and the future of rural America over profits.” To do anything less would be a stunning lack of representation at this point.
I'm looking for exemplary leadership from you on this issue. The people of Iowa are already leading the fight against pipelines, but need champions in the legislature. Will you listen?
Please support House File 565 and help move the bill to the Iowa Senate.
Top graphic created by Julie Russell-Steuart, using photographs from Food & Water Watch.
“As legislators, it is your duty to think of how we can work together for the common good of Iowa. To me, that means putting people and our precious land resources first, especially when combined with a significant chance to protect the environment by moving away from the dependence on fossil fuels.”
Working together for “common good” is really important. A companion issue is the flow of animal waste and soil nutrients into streams, rivers and lakes — fouling drinking water and endangering lives, and creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Yes, fight back. As a Democrat, I join in saying to legislators, “ Why can't we say to Iowans, “We represent you to the best of our abilities. We care about your health, land, and the future of rural America over profits.” To do anything less would be a stunning lack of representation at this point.
thank you! great article
Thanks for writing this, Julie!
Cheers from Rural IA!
Thanks Julie - this piece is articulate and very well detailed. Appreciate your advocacy from this NW corner of the state! #Solidarity
I've seen reader comments in the DES MOINES REGISTER...
...from someone who is clearly an advocate for the Iowa ethanol industry, and who often posts links and statistics in support of the ethanol industry. But he has also been very clear that he thinks the carbon pipelines are an extremely dumb idea. I wonder if there are other heretics within the industry itself who are keeping quiet.