Don’t let IUB’s work on pipeline be undone

The Register published an op-ed Feb. 23 written by Paul Cienfuegos, an Oregon-based community activist who preaches an anti-government, sovereign citizen message in response to the Iowa Utilities Board permitting discussions on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Cienfuegos claims this issue can be resolved, to his satisfaction at least, by individual counties and cities taking action of their own. Nothing can be further from the truth or the law in Iowa. Iowa’s own attorney general has stated that though counties and local communities can enact local ordinances they cannot be in conflict with state law. Furthermore, as representatives of the people of Iowa, the General Assembly, has granted the authority to regulate pipelines in this state to the IUB. It is well within the legal purview of the board to oversee the open and orderly process that has led to the final permitting discussions on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

For a year and a half, the IUB has presented multiple opportunities for public input and held information-gathering sessions involving all stakeholders in the project. Comments have been submitted, testimonies given, and information has been gathered. Now is not the time for that orderly procedure and lawful action to be abandoned and unjustifiably stirred up by an out-of-state environmental activist, which would be an insult to the hard work the dedicated public servants at the IUB have done to ensure they have all the facts and information to make an informed decision.

We, as Iowans, should not acquiesce to the call to abandon our principles and our laws in favor of beliefs that will only obstruct lawful action. The decision whether the pipeline is approved is reserved solely for the IUB, period. Proposing local or county ordinances to supersede or challenge statewide rulings with the force of state law will not be upheld, as our courts have consistently ruled on such matters.

The Dakota Access Pipeline stands to offer Iowans many benefits, from increased tax revenue from the project to fund infrastructure and public services, to jobs for thousands of laborers and workers through the supply chain. Dakota Access stands to work for Iowa and put Iowans to work. More important, it is an essential element in our country’s energy future.

As a state representative and an Iowan, I am proud of our state’s Constitution. Our representative system of government allows for these decisions to be made by public servants like the IUB, as outlined in the Iowa Code, despite what Mr. Cienfuegos claims. I’m proud of the work these public servants do every day, which they do with the best interests of our state in mind and for the future of every Iowan.

At the end of the day this is the IUB’s decision to make, with the facts and information they have, and theirs and theirs alone. Iowans from Sioux Center to Keokuk have made facts and opinions known, often working constructively to find solutions that protect both the interests of private citizens and the proposed project. The majority of Iowans believe we can have both energy independence, and new infrastructure, while maintaining our agricultural tradition and protecting Iowa’s farmland. Dakota Access’ mitigation plans show this is possible. We should not allow this work to be undone by fringe interests when this lengthy approval process has reached the finish line.

I commend the IUB for their balanced and fair approach to the Dakota Access Pipeline proceedings. In a highly divisive climate this is no easy feat, and the board members have maintained a professionalism and decorum about the process that should be commended. I look forward to their final decision on this important project.

State Rep. Ralph Watts of Adel, a Republican, is an engineer and a small business owner. Contact: ralph.watts@legis.iowa.gov

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