OTTUMWA —Pam Alexander’s worries about the proposed Bakken pipeline started when she learned the path cuts across her famland.
“My first concern was when I got the letter to landowners. I didn’t want my personal property going to a private company. Then, when I learned they could take it using eminent domain, that worried me,” she said.
Alexander said she isn’t a knee-jerk opponent to the project, but that her opposition grew as she learned more about it. She came into contact with the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition and attended some meetings. As that happened, she started hearing about other pipelines and other problems.
Now, she’s firmly opposed to the idea of having a crude oil pipeline that crosses Iowa.
“I’ve learned a lot. I’m still learning,” she said. “Everyone has their own concerns. We may differ on other issues, but everyone is united to stop this pipeline.”
The coalition held what it called an informational meeting at Bridge View Center on Saturday. Angie Carter, one of the organizers, said it was an opportunity for community members to learn about the pipeline.
This wasn’t the first meeting about the Bakken pipeline in the area. But most of the others were hosted by the company that hopes to construct it. Plans call for the pipeline to cross 343 miles of land in Mahaska, Wapello, Keokuk, Jefferson and Van Buren counties.
Carter said the coalition includes groups who oppose it because of concerns about the impact it could have on the environment, farmers who worry about their cropland and religious groups who view expanding use of fossil fuels as a moral issue because of climate change.
Weekly meetings on the pipeline have also branched out into contacts with opponents of the better-known Keystone pipeline.
“We’re working with anti-Keystone people in Nebraska because we believe this is the new Keystone,” Carter said.
Opponents also worry that the pipeline is a Trojan horse of sorts. Once constructed, there is little to stop the pipeline owners from connecting to other sources, like the tar sands in Canada, they say.
Bill Alexander, Pam’s husband, confessed to a bit of disappointment about the turnout at the Ottumwa meeting. Chairs had been set out for more than 200 people, but only 40 or so were seated when the meeting began. Others trickled in as the meeting progressed.
Photos of oil spills were lined up along the walls, as well as posters made to protest the Bakken plans. Carter stressed the risks to those who live along the pipeline, regardless of whether it crosses their properties. A spill along a river could contaminate water supplies for thousands, while damage to crops could hurt farmers.
No decision has been made on the plans in Iowa. The Iowa Utilities Board is expected to hold a formal hearing on the pipeline later this year.