Most of the weekly newspapers out in our area are simply not covering the story. Are the same strong arm tactics being used with the small local papers as they were with the farmers Koch Industries scammed for their land?
The Startribune covered the hearings behind the pipeline and the coercive tactics used by Koch Industries and their agents.
Jonathon Posusta, who grows 230 acres of corn and soybeans on a century-old
family farm near Lester Prairie, broke down several times as he testified that
agents representing the pipeline project threatened some of his neighbors,
telling them that they would force the pipeline across their land if they didn't
sign easement agreements.
Even an administrative law judge found the tactics shady to say the least.
An administrative law judge who recommended in November that the state approve
the pipeline agreed with Posusta that landowners were sometimes treated poorly
by the process. Judge Beverly Jones Heydinger, who oversaw a series of public
hearings last fall concerning the pipeline, said some landowners were not told
that the original pipeline route had changed, moving the planned path onto their
properties, despite initial assurances that it would not cross their land, she
The Pioneer Press reported that the offers from Koch Industries were insultingly low, even with the coercive tactics.
"The offers … are so ridiculously low, it's pitiful," said Joyce H. Osborn, a Burnsville real estate broker who owns 105 acres in Scott County. "It's a real mess."
The McLeod County Chronicle has been the only local media outlet to cover the story, for which, they deserve a Colbert like "Tip of the Hat".
"People's rights were violated, and they never got their due process. It's
wrong," said Ken Posusta. Posusta's brother, Jonathan, is a McLeod County
farmer, and is purchasing 230 acres owned by their parents. That property is
being affected by the pipeline."People's property is one of the most important
things to their livelihood," said Posusta. "They (the pipeline company) need to
be held to a higher ethical and moral standard."
So, just who is Koch Industries?
Let's just say their safety record is not as stellar as one would like a pipeline company to be.
Koch Industries indicted on 97 counts of violating federal clean air and hazardous waste laws.
"Companies that produce dangerous pollutants simply cannot focus on profit
and efficiency at the expense of a community's health," said Lois Shiffer,
Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and
Natural Resources Division. "We will continue to find and prosecute those who
would flout our environmental laws."
More violations and fines paid out by Koch.
For Koch Industries, the amounts of money it can save by sabotaging environmental
rules make the sums diverted to the think tanks that do the dirty work pale in
comparison. The year 2000 was particularly rough for the Kochs. In January, Koch
Industries agreed to pay about $35 million for violations of the Clean Water Act
related to 310 oil spills in six states. Two months later, Koch admitted to
environmental violations at its oil refinery in Rosemount,Minnesota, and was
forced to cough up another $8 million in penalties. Then in July, it agreed not
only to spend about $80 million to cut emissions from its Rosemount facility and
from two other refineries in Texas, but also to pay a $1million fine for
Company execs have given almost a half million dollars to Republican's and to President Bush.
During the 1990s, the company's leaky pipelines were responsible for more than
300 oil spills in five states, prompting a penalty of $30 million.In 1996, a
faulty pipeline caused an explosion outside of Dallas in which two teenagers were
killed. In a lawsuit related to the deaths, a trial court returned a judgement of
$376.69 million against the company.
Remember what happened in Little Falls this past summer where more than 134,000 gallons of oil spewed from the pipeline.
Check out Rep. Jim Oberstar's press release.
The contaminated soil ranged from 6 to 18 inches deep.
Speaking of the size of the landfill for the contaminated soil,
"It’s the fourth largest landfill in the state." He further pointed out that, to
receive the contaminated soil, a thick heavy plastic liner has been put down,
covered with dense clay. The restoration phase will follow the recovery phase.
This could take years and will include having fresh soil brought in. Studies
will also continue. The site is on property owned by Robert and Cindy Poppen.
Their complete 75 acres have since been purchased by the Minnesota Pipeline
Company, operators of the pipeline.
Koch Industries will also run the pipeline through our backyards. What would 134,000 gallons of oil do to fertile farmland in Central Minnesota?
Having spoken to Senator Dille and Representative's Urdahl and Shimanski, a legislative solution is less likely than ever, but not out of the question. All of these elected officials expressed concern over the "low balling" being done by Koch Industries. Implementing eminent domain is also a significant concern for all of these leaders.
Rep Urdahl has done more on this issue than others though, and for that, I am grateful. He has met with the Public Utilities Commission, and with impacted land owners and farmers near Eden Valley.
Rep Shimanski though, is notably quiet. His weekly legislative updates talk about him going to trade shows in Hutchinson and other issues, nothing related to the MinnCan pipeline being forced down our throats.
So the question is what can we do about this. First of all, we are not done yet. The pipeline has a date with an appeals court in the future.
One thing I am pushing my elected leaders to do is to change the statutes around the "Buy the Farm Act (Minn.Stat 216E.12).
The statute provides land owners the option to force the builders of high power transmission lines (power lines) to have to purchase the entire land and not simply "low ball" an easement.
Check here for the specific language we can use to force this measure.
I'm anxiously awaiting word from Rep Urdahl on what he can do for changing this statute.