Tag Archives: Iowa

Estimated 230,000 gallons of crude oil spills into Iowa river after Train derailment 

Tanker cars carrying Alberta crude oil are shown derailed in Lyon County, Iowa, Friday. (Photo Sioux City Journal via AP)

Train carrying tanker cars of tar sands oil from Alberta to Oklahoma derails along flooded Iowa river

A train derailment has spilled an estimated 230,000 gallons of Alberta crude oil into the floodwaters of the Rock River, in Iowa, resulting in a disaster declaration from the governor and a massive clean-up operation.

The train derailed around 4:30am Friday, near Doon, in Lyon County. There were no injuries.

Oil spilled into the river after 32 tanker cars derailed. The train’s operator BNSF said 14 of the derailed cars had leaked oil, according to Lyon County Daily News.

The derailment forced evacuations of nearby homes and raised concerns about drinking water contamination. Rock Valley, a small city just to the southwest of Doon shut off all its drinking water wells.

Crews spent Saturday containing the spill and building a temporary road to move equipment to the crash site to make it easier to remove the piled-up train cars and advance the cleanup, the Sioux City Journal reported.

Crews work to clean up the BNSF railway after a 32-car derailment along banks of the Rock River south of Doon, Iowa.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said the cleanup and recovery were still in the early stages.

A disaster proclamation issued by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for Lyon and three other counties in response to the train derailment placed the blame on rain-fueled flooding.

The nearby Little Rock River rose rapidly after heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday. The Little Rock River flows into the Rock River which caused overflow on its banks along the route of the train tracks.

Some officials have speculated that floodwaters eroded soil beneath the train track. The cause has not been confirmed.

According to The Associated Press, the train was carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, to Stroud, Oklahoma, for ConocoPhillips. ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said each tanker can hold more than 25,000 gallons (20,817 imperial gallons) of oil.

CTV News is reporting almost half of the oil spill – an estimated 100,000 gallons (378,530 liters) – has been contained at the site using booms close to the derailment site. An additional boom has been placed about five miles (8.05 kilometers) downstream.

BNSF did not respond to questions on Sunday about the progress of the cleanup.

The Sioux County Sheriff posted a video depicting the aftermath of the derailment near Doon on Facebook:

FBI Raid Home of Women Who Claimed Responsibility for DAPL Sabotage

By Black Powder | RPM Staff

Friday morning federal agents raided a Des Moines Catholic Worker House where two women who’ve claimed responsibility for vandalizing the Dakota Access Pipeline were staying.

Last month, during a press conference outside the Iowa Utilities Board headquarters, Catholic workers and activists, Jessica Reznicek, 36 and Ruby Montoya, 27, revealed they secretly carried out multiple acts of sabotage including burning millions of dollars in construction equipment at pipeline locations across Iowa and other states. The two were then arrested for damaging a sign outside the Iowa Utilities Board building.

“Using tires and gasoline-soaked rags we burned multiple valve sites, their electrical units, as well as heavy equipment located on DAPL easements throughout Iowa,” said Montoya.

A burned hole was discovered at a valve site in Iowa.

The Des Moines Register reports, about 30 law enforcement personnel, led by agents armed with guns who identified themselves as being from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, entered the catholic workers house just north of downtown Des Moines shortly after 6 a.m.

The agents left about 10:30 a.m. with boxes and sealed bags of property they had seized. There were no arrests or injuries during the raid.

Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya

Reznicek and Montoya were at the house on Friday.

According to KIWARadio.com, Alex Cohen, part of the “Mississippi Stand” group that sought to halt the pipeline’s extension from southeast Iowa across the river into Illinois, said the women told him that they were kept on the front porch of the house as the agents conducted the search inside.

Cohen says the women consider some of the materials seized during the raids to be protected by the attorney-client privilege and, now that it’s in the hands of federal authorities, it will hurt the chances at a fair trial.

Both women, who remain free on bond, say they were fighting a “private corporation” and “never threatened human life nor personal property” with their actions.

In the past, Reznicek has been arrested multiple times in various protests.

Montoya was most recently charged in a protest over a pipeline in Tennessee.


In 2014, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline developed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners. Months of demonstrations by thousands of opponents sought to halt construction of the four-state pipeline from North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.

Pipeline Fighters Arrested In North Dakota And Iowa After Disrupting Dakota Access Worksites (VIDEO)

Dakota Access Pipeline Fighters Arrested

By Black Powder Red Power Media, Staff, Aug 31, 2016

Arrests were made Wednesday at a Dakota Access pipeline worksite after demonstrators disrupted construction, west of the main protest site ― where hundreds of mostly Native Americans are camped out.

Construction has been stopped for days near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, while the Dakota Access company and those opposing its controversial oil pipeline await a court decision on Sept 9th. Dakota Access has agreed not to drill under the Missouri River; However, construction has continued elsewhere. And today, protesters targeted one of those spots.

Sheriff’s deputies spent all morning trying to get down Dale American Horse Jr, who is known as Happy, after he attached himself to heavy machinery at a Dakota Access construction site, near State Highway 6 south of St. Anthony, or about 20 miles west of the main protest site near Standing Rock. Problems in taking apart the equipment slowed his release into custody. The site had to shut down for the day.

The Grand Forks Herald‎ reports, Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Donnell Preskey said two protesters, using what appeared to be tape and PVC pipe or casting type of material, bound themselves to a piece of machinery that appeared in the video. Authorities called the Mandan Rural Fire Department to help cut the men free.

Around 11:15 a.m., Authorities pushed a group of protesters surrounding American Horse back 100 yards. At least two were taken into custody.

According to the Bismarck Tribune, Eight Dakota Access Pipeline protesters had been arrested as of 2:05 today

Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said today’s act to chain themselves to Dakota Access Pipeline equipment was done by members of the Red Warrior Camp.

Goldtooth said the Red Warrior Camp is made up of Dakota and Lakota people residing within the original Sacred Stone spirit camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The Sheriff’s Department arrested protesters for a variety of charges including suspicion of preventing arrest, disorderly conduct, trespassing, and obstruction to a government function.

The pipeline fighters in Standing Rock have so far succeeded in halting construction and the mainstream media has been criticized for lack of coverage on the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Much of today’s action by the Native American activists opposed to the pipeline, unfolded live on social media sites.

Julia Slocum of Ames, Iowa, is placed under arrest on trespassing charges by a member of the Boone County Sherrif's Department on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Boone, Iowa. People gathered to voice their opinion against the development of the Bakken Pipeline during a rally on four of the entrances to the pipeline construction site. The Des Moines Register via AP Bryon Houlgrave

Julia Slocum of Ames, Iowa, is placed under arrest on trespassing charges by a member of the Boone County Sherrif’s Department on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Boone, Iowa.

30 arrested in Iowa at the Bakken pipeline protest

Meanwhile, after a Judge denied a restraining order, pipeline fighters in Iowa at other end the Dakota Access, ―also known as the Bakken pipeline― met Wednesday morning to learn the techniques of peaceful civil disobedience. In the afternoon, more than 100 protesters converged on the Farm Progress grounds in Boone, and a few dozen blocked four entrances to the construction site grounds. Those who would not move to make way for vehicles coming in and out were arrested by law enforcement officials with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and Iowa State Patrol.

KCCI’s Mark Tauscheck reported the first arrest happened about 2:48 p.m.

30 arrested protesters were arrested and taken to the Boone County Jail on charges of trespassing, the sheriff’s department said.

Protesters are arrested by Iowa State troopers as they march against the Dakota Access pipeline near Pilot Mound on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 31, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Protesters are arrested by Iowa State troopers as they march against the Dakota Access pipeline near Pilot Mound on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 31, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

For two years, activists in Iowa have been demonstrating against Dakota Access, which is placing 346 miles of pipeline in 18 Iowa counties, crossing the state on a diagonal from northwest to southeast. It’s part of the interstate route that starts in the Bakken fields of North Dakota, crosses part of South Dakota and the width of Iowa before ending at a distribution hub in Illinois.

Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline project has grown fierce as landowners, Indigenous people, farmers, and environmentalists have banded together in opposition.

A person sits in protest at the site of construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in central North Dakota, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Authorities say that they have cut free the man who bound himself to construction equipment as part of a protest at a Dakota Access oil pipeline about 20 miles west of a main protest site in North Dakota. The Bismarck Tribune via AP Tom Stromme

Dale American Horse Jr, who is known as Happy, sits in protest at the site of construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Photo: The Bismarck Tribune via AP Tom Stromme

Fired National Park Worker Says She’s A Scapegoat For Damage To Sacred Burial Site

In this Nov. 8, 2010 file photo are the "Three Mounds" site at at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Former Effigy Mounds superintendent Phyllis Ewing contends in an age discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court last week that she was unfairly blamed and fired for illegal construction projects that damaged one of the nation's most sacred American Indian burial sites. (The Des Moines Register via AP, Justin Hayworth)

In this Nov. 8, 2010 file photo are the “Three Mounds” site at at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Former Effigy Mounds superintendent Phyllis Ewing contends in an age discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court last week that she was unfairly blamed and fired for illegal construction projects that damaged one of the nation’s most sacred American Indian burial sites. (The Des Moines Register via AP, Justin Hayworth)

By Ryan J. Foley | Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A former National Park Service official in Iowa says she was unfairly blamed and fired for approving illegal construction projects that damaged a sacred American Indian burial site.

In an age discrimination lawsuit filed last week, former Effigy Mounds National Monument superintendent Phyllis Ewing contends the agency made her a “scapegoat” to appease interest groups and protect other officials’ reputations. After being removed as superintendent in 2010 and transferred to the National Park Service’s regional office in Omaha, Nebraska, Ewing claims she worked for 3½ years with barely any official duties before she was fired in 2013.

A federal investigation made public last year found that Ewing and a subordinate, Tom Sinclair, repeatedly violated laws that required archaeological studies and input from tribes before they built boardwalks, trails and a maintenance shed.

The projects, costing $3 million over a decade, removed stone artifacts and impacted scenic views at the site in northeast Iowa, which contains burial and ceremonial mounds affiliated with 12 tribes. Tribal groups and some environmentalists were outraged by the damage at the park, which was created in 1949 to preserve “a significant phase of mound building culture of prehistoric American Indians.”

Ewing, now 73 and living in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, contends in the lawsuit she was provided very little training on the mandatory reviews before she became superintendent in 1999 and that it was unfair for the National Park Service to expect her to perform them appropriately. The lack of training, exacerbated by tight funding and travel budgets, was “epidemic in the agency,” the lawsuit says.

Ewing’s superiors at the regional office uncovered violations of the National Historic Preservation Act in 2009 during construction of one of three boardwalks. After the problems continued, the agency gave Ewing the option in April 2010 of retiring or transferring to a position as a curator at the Omaha office.

Once in Omaha, Ewing alleges she learned that co-workers were instructed not to communicate or cooperate with her and generally treated her with disdain and disrespect.

“(Ewing) was forced to walk on egg shells, never being able to feel welcome or at home there,” the lawsuit says. “The fact is, Plaintiff never had an official job, barely official duties, and believes that the agency was biding time as it planned an opportunity to remove her.”

Federal prosecutors declined to file charges in 2012 after a two-year criminal investigation. The National Park Service fired Ewing in November 2013, saying she failed to perform her duties and follow guidelines while superintendent. The lawsuit, which seeks compensation for lost wages and benefits and additional damages, claims those allegations were false and unfair and a pretext for age discrimination.

National Park Service spokeswoman Christine Powell declined comment Monday. In response to the scandal, the agency has said that it “ramped up its training program” for superintendents to understand how to comply with federal law.

Critics of Ewing and the National Park Service’s handling of the case said they were skeptical of her claims.

“Everyone knew she was going to pull this ‘I’m an old lady’ defense,” said Tim Mason, a former park ranger who filed a complaint in 2010 that sparked the criminal investigation. “Now it will drag through the process and the American taxpayer will pay more. Hopefully, the feds don’t lay down and give up.”

Jeff Ruch, executive director of the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the park service’s decision to allow Ewing to transfer was an attempt to keep the problems quiet but ended up making them worse.

“This whole affair showed a monstrous lack of judgment,” he said of the construction. “And after the park service confirmed all of it, they refused to confront it and tried to shut her away some place in hopes that she would retire.”


Meskwaki Tribe Opposes Bakken Oil Pipeline Through Iowa

rake Keahna, 8, wears traditional clothing for a Meskwaki powwow in 2006. The tribe has voiced opposition to the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, which a Meskwaki official says would run through the tribe’s aboriginal rights lands. (Photo: Register file photo)

Drake Keahna, 8, wears traditional clothing for a Meskwaki powwow in 2006. The tribe has voiced opposition to the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, which a Meskwaki official says would run through the tribe’s aboriginal rights lands.
(Photo: Register file photo)

William Petroski | The Des Moines Register

DES MOINES — The Meskwaki Indian tribe, which has had an Iowa settlement near Tama since 1857, is objecting to a Texas company’s plans to construct a 343-mile crude oil pipeline across 18 Iowa counties.

The tribe — officially known as the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa — has expressed its opposition in a letter to the Iowa Utilities Board. The letter, signed by tribal chairwoman Judith Bender, raises concerns that the Bakken oil pipeline would damage the environment and harm Native American graves while crossing through ancestral and ceded treaty lands.

The pipeline has been proposed by Dakota Access LLC, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners. It would transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to a transfer point at Patoka, Ill. The utilities board has not announced when it will make a decision on the project.

The Meskwaki tribe, which has 1,400 members, said the proposed pipeline would cut through lands of religious and cultural significance, and it could destroy wildlife habit and contaminate Iowa’s waters. A coalition of 20 other Iowa groups, ranging from the Sierra Club to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, has also voiced opposition to the pipeline project.

“As a people that have lived in North America for thousands of years, we have environmental concerns about the land and drinking water,” Bender wrote in a letter filed Feb. 19 with state officials. “As long as our environment was good we could live, regardless of who our neighbors were. Our main concern is Iowa’s aquifers might be significantly damaged. And it will only take one mistake and life in Iowa will change for the next thousands of years. We think that should be protected, because it is the water that gives Iowa the best way of life.”

While the pipeline route would not pass directly through the Meskwaki settlement land near Tama, federal law requires that Indian tribes must be consulted for projects that may affect areas to which tribes attach religious and cultural significance, regardless of their location. Bender said the project would run through the tribe’s aboriginal rights lands.

Respect for American Indian heritage has been a sensitive issue in Iowa. In 1976, former Gov. Robert Ray signed the Iowa Burials Protection Act, the first legislation in the United States that specifically protected American Indian remains. Ray acted in response to complaints from the late Maria Pearson, a Yankton Dakota who lived in Ames. Pearson was appalled after learning the remains of white people were quickly reburied after they were recovered in Glenwood in western Iowa during a road construction project, while the remains of an American Indian mother and child were sent to a lab for study. Pearson first met with Ray after sitting outside his office in traditional Native American clothing.

In January, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, representing 16 American Indian tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska, sent a letter to President Obama in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil into the United States. Many tribal groups have labeled the pipeline “the black snake.” Meskwaki leader Roberts said in her letter to the Iowa Utilities Board that she is concerned that the Bakken pipeline could be used as a replacement if the Keystone XL pipeline is not built.

Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, said Friday that Dakota Access will comply with the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. She also said that in addition to regulatory oversight from the Iowa Utilities Board, the pipeline project is subject to regulations of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and federal environmental laws that include the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Rivers and Harbor Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Historical Preservation Act.

Granado said Dakota Access has also filed for permits with, provided information to, or engaged in required consultations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Iowa State Historical Preservation Office and numerous state entities and subdivisions that are holders of sovereign lands.

“We have surveyed and will continue to survey for wetlands, cultural resources, wells, protected areas, threatened and endangered species and other sensitive areas to meet or exceed what is required by state and federal regulations,” Granado said. “When constructed, the pipeline will include numerous safety features, which will be increased (particularly in terms of thickness of the pipe and location and frequency of remotely controllable valves) in sensitive areas such as rivers.”

The Meskwaki people are of Algonquian origin from the Eastern Woodland Culture areas. The Meskwaki spoken language is the same dialect as the Sauk and Kickapoo, according to a tribal history. In the 1850s, the state of Iowa enacted a law allowing the Meskwaki to stay, and the tribe purchased land in Tama County in 1857. In 1896, the state of Iowa ceded to the federal government all jurisdiction over the Meskwakis.

Bender said in her two-page letter to the Iowa Utilities Board that Dakota Access officials were asked in a community meeting if their project would comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. But a company vice president responded that he wasn’t aware of what that meant and offered no commitment to comply, she said.

Other Native American rights are also at stake, the tribal leader said, noting that the pipeline route falls within areas covered by Indian treaties dating to the 1830s and 1840s. In addition, Bender said the state of Iowa does not have enough regulatory authority or oversight regarding oil pipelines. The state requires companies to be bonded for $250,000, which is insufficient to clean up and mitigate spills that often cost several million dollars, she said.