Try as we might, there seems to be no good reason to support the Bakken Pipeline, Dakota Access Pipeline, or whatever we're calling it today.
We've listened to all the arguments, and vague answers to the many questions being posed, with an open mind. We are not against progress, and certainly not against energy independence - even if it means a particularly dirty grade of crude oil. We're also not among the gloom and doomers who assume that a disastrous failure is a given. We've had countless underground tanks and fuel delivery lines in Iowa for many years.
Our concern is simply that it doesn't pencil out.
It seems that Iowa is being played. The only real winner here is a big Fortune 500 company in Texas, oil fields in North Dakota, and an oil depot in Illinois that would presumably ship the product on to the Gulf region to end up who knows where.
The money produced by that pipeline through Iowa isn't staying in Iowa, aside from some relatively small impact on taxes.
What Iowa gets is torn up, and the perpetual risk of a oil spill - how big a risk depends who you choose to listen to, but undeniably some risk. We get an oil pipeline that will cross our streams and rivers - including the Mississippi and Missouri - and run below the roads we count on.
It will run through some of the most productive farm fields in the world. How much very needed crop will be lost for construction, future access and service, nobody can say for sure. A 50-foot wide swath through our county amounts to a considerable amount of real estate.
If they build a pipeline through Iowa, is it going to reduce the price we pay for gasoline, or stop us from doing business with OPEC? Of course not. In fact, there's no real guarantee the oil will even be used in this county after the intense process of refining tar-heavy oil.
Ultimately, farmers in Buena Vista County and across the state should have the major say in this. They stand to make a little cash by giving up permanent easements to their crop land, and they also stand to assume the risk.
"Little" of course is relative. Maybe $11 grand an acre is nothing to sneeze at (or as little as $2,000 in areas of the state with less valuable land). But keep in mind that this is one-time cash, in return for giving up access to their land permanently, even long after the 25 year initial period this company can gain rights to pump. $11,000 divided by 25 or more sounds less thrilling.
Of course, it's also just not as feel-good to roll out a red carpet for lowgrade oil to be a part of your county, as it is to welcome in renewable energy like the wind towers.
There's also a bit of a sense of leverage here. Let us build our pipeline through you, or we'll just load it on trucks and trains and follow the same route anyway, helping to ruin roads and create even higher safety risks in your state.
Officials of the pipeline company have been to our office to make the pitch for the project, hoping to head off any backlash no doubt and recruit us to help convince farmers to give over their property for pipeline installation. We've listened closely to what the company and the Iowa Utilities Board people have to say.
It seems to us the questions that need to be asked are not getting answered.
Like, how do we know this new LLC just formed is going to be around and responsible if an incident happens with the pipeline 10 or 20 years from now. Why did Energy Partners form this "Dakota Access LLC" for the project instead of doing it under their own corporate name?
We're told it will create jobs. But when we press for answers, they haven't shown us where any permanent jobs are assured here in Iowa. We're told the pipeline will make railroad crop transport better, but when pressed the company told us they really don't have any numbers on how the situation would impact Iowa. We're told the company will avoid environmentally sensitive areas "as much as possible," but when we asked about how that would be one in our area, there really were no answers.
Iowa's current administration has a reputation for somewhat bending over for out-of-state corporations that want to take advantage of our land, our water resources, our tax breaks and our low-pay workforce.
We're not so sure this is the plan to bend for. We had better take a close, close look at what we are really getting, and really risking, for $27 million a year in supposed longterm tax revenue.