Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pipeline fight

Damn you Hutchinson Leader! You do not print your entire articles on line anymore! That's ok though, I understand its just the business.

Perhaps I will follow someone's expert advice and buy print copies of the newspapers instead of trying to read them on line all the time!

Anyway...the pipeline issue took a back seat to many issues during the recent campaign.

Seems like the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, or MPIRG, has gotten involved. They held a meeting in Norwood Young America in which 60 people showed their interest in organizing against the pipeline.

I spoke to many farmers who had significant concerns over the pipeline. One was an organic farmer north of Plato and Glencoe. The fears of farmers are obvious.

I'll turn it over to the St Paul Pioneer Press from here...

Rural residents object to pipeline
Homeowners worry proposed line would crash property values

Pioneer Press

When his eyesight began to dim, Scott P. Anderson set his sights on sprucing up his house. After 10 years of hammering and sawing, the 40-year-old cabinetmaker put his Eureka Township trophy home on the market last year, hoping to sell it for more than $500,000.
He planned to use the money to move his family to Massachusetts, buy a condo and eventually pay his children's way through college.

"That was my investment," said Anderson, who is legally blind.

Then came the MinnCan Project, a proposed 300-mile oil line that would cleave through rural Dakota County, threatening to turn the cabinetmaker's dreams to sawdust.

According to Anderson, Minnesota Pipe Line Co., which has proposed the oil line, offered him $4,300 for a permanent easement running the length of his 4-acre property, south of Farmington. His real estate agent, however, has estimated the resulting loss in land value at $125,000, and possibly much greater.

It's a familiar story for more than 1,000 landowners on the path of the MinnCan proposal. Many homeowners who hoped to one day sell their properties for retirement funds said the easement offers are minuscule compared with land values on the open market, even during the current downturn.

And in another blow to property values, the MinnCan contract prohibits any kind of construction on the 50-foot easement, other than driveways.

"This area out here is growing, and all of the farms that are out here are going to be developed into housing," said Judy Martin, of New Market Township, in Scott County. "When they put the pipe through, you can't build on it. It's gone. You can mow it, and you pay taxes on it. You can't put trees up. You can't do anything."

Martin and her husband have owned their 2½-acre property for 35 years, and the couple had plans to sell it and retire off the proceeds. Now, those plans may be as compromised as their grove of black walnut, maple, plum and apple trees, which is directly in the pipeline's path.
"Who is going to want it?" Martin said. "If you saw land with equal value, one with a pipeline on it, one without, which one would you buy?"

Minnesota Pipe Line Co. has sent out scores of representatives to try to convince resistant landowners like the Andersons and the Martins.

"We did different appraisals to try to get the (correct value) of the land," said Todd McKimmey, engineering and construction manager with Minnesota Pipe Line Co. "We felt like what we needed to do was start with our best offer first."

And about 70 percent of landowners have accepted the contract, which provides a 20 percent down payment on easements and the remainder after construction.
The company says the oil line could help stabilize gas prices throughout the Midwest by drawing as many as 165,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada. The group's existing route, which goes through Anoka and Washington counties, carries 300,000 barrels a day and is expected to reach capacity next year.

The new oil line would branch off from an underground line in Clearbrook, Minn., and stretch south across 13 rural counties to the Flint Hills Resources Refinery in Rosemount. If approved, construction is expected to begin next summer and be completed by early 2008. The new route would be operated by Koch Industries, which spilled 134,000 gallons in June in Little Falls.
Property owners say they've been put through the hard sell.

"We have had … five different representatives out here, " said Karen Ostlie, of Eureka Township. "They have said, 'Well, your neighbors have signed.' We go to the meetings, and we'll call. Nobody has signed anything. I just think of the whole thing as very unethical."
Then there's the question of money.

Peter Johnson's 96 acres of farmland in Eureka Township would be fronted by the oil line for half a mile along Highview Avenue. He said the company offered him $35,000.
"I'm close to 50 and thinking about retirement in the next 10 years," said Johnson, a sixth-generation farmer. "I wouldn't even want to guess the money I would lose in value, but it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars."

At times, he speaks of the project as a fait accompli. "We … are looking at our retirement thrown out the window," he said.

Many landowners had hoped to persuade Minnesota Pipe Line Co. to build the new route along the existing one. State regulators dropped that alternative in June, declaring the area too heavily developed.

Administrative Law Judge Beverly Heydinger is expected to make her recommendation this month to the Public Utilities Commission, which could then make its final decision by mid-December.

Some landowners have managed to persuade the company to avoid their properties, and Heydinger's report could suggest further route changes.

After a fervent letter-writing campaign on behalf of organic farmers, the oil line will no longer go through the Gardens of Eagan, an organic farm in Eureka Township. But as a result, the proposed path traverses the Andersons' and the Johnsons' front yards.

The Andersons, the Martins and the Johnsons say they are determined not to sign the MinnCan contract. If the line is approved, they fear the company will acquire the easements anyway by eminent domain.

They'll then have to go to court. And that's a pricey legal battle they don't look forward to.
Based in Wichita, Kan., Koch Industries recently became the largest privately held corporation in the world, by revenue. And it's a giant that has taken a few spills.

In 2000, Koch was ordered to pay $35 million —- the largest civil fine ever imposed on a company under federal environmental law —- to resolve claims from more than 300 oil spills in six states.

In Minnesota, the company paid a state record $6.9 million civil penalty in 1998 for storm water and hazardous-waste problems at the Rosemount plant. Minnesota Pipe Line Co.'s McKimmey said the company has improved its environmental record and has had only two spills in the state in the past 18 years.

How do we stop things like this from coming through our district? Organize, organize, organize! The pipeline is destroying property values (what will we fund our schools with) and could damage the fertile soil in our Western MN farmland.

We can organize to oppose the corporate greed...or we can sit back and let them take it from us.

I know what I am going to do!

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