The former president of the Iowa Farm Bureau is now backing the controversial Bakken crude oil pipeline that’s proposed to pass through 18 Iowa counties. Ed Wiederstein of Audubon is chairman of a group called MAIN, or the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now.
Wiederstein says the pipeline project would bring several direct benefits to Iowa. “There’s going to be quite a bit of employment for a while with the construction of the project,” Wiederstein says. “There’s going to be a lot of sales tax paid, a lot of property tax that will be ongoing for however long the pipeline will be in use. That’s going to be significant for those counties that it goes through.”
The proposed pipeline would cut diagonally across Iowa from the northwest to the southeast, carrying crude from oil fields in the Dakotas to Illinois. While a long list of environmental groups oppose the project, Wiederstein says the pipeline offers a safer, smoother way of transporting oil than most other methods.
“The safety and the efficiency of moving oil through a pipeline compared to a highway or a rail structure,” he says, “even though there’s enough oil being pumped up there that the pipeline will never be able to handle the whole thing, so rail is still going to be an important part of it.”
Wiederstein says the so-called Dakota Access pipeline will be built with state-of-the-art materials and will use the latest technology to avoid any environmental problems. “There’s nothing that’s fool-proof and to say there’s never going to be any kind of an accident or anything like that, nobody can say that,” Wiederstein says. “It’s a matter of risk. When you compare it to other forms of transportation, it’s pretty low risk.” Public hearings will be held late this year to determine whether the pipeline will move forward.
At least 20 different groups have joined forces in Iowa to block the pipeline project, calling themselves the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition. Member groups in the coalition include: the Iowa Audubon Society, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Iowa Climate Advocates, Iowa Farmers Union, 1,000 Friends of Iowa, the Iowa Renewable Energy Association and the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club.