Dems Nominate Bakken Pipeline Foe Murken for County Supervisor

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At a reconvened convention Saturday, Story County Democrats nominated Gilbert resident Linda Murken, a member of the Ames League of Women Voters and former Iowa Correctional Services Department director, to run for a seat on the Board of Supervisors against Republican Martin Chitty this fall.

Chitty was appointed to the board following the death of Democratic Supervisor Paul Toot in early May. The winner of the race will serve out the remainder of Toot’s four-year term, which ends in 2018. Another Democrat endorsed by the county party, former Ames journalist Lauris Olson, is running for another seat on the board against Republican Scott Schaben and incumbent Wayne Clinton, a Democrat who earlier this year announced his retirement but backtracked to launch a no-party bid after Olson defeated former Mainstream Living CEO Reno Berg in the Democratic primary.

Although Olson has also expressed skepticism, among candidates for supervisor Murken is now the most outspoken opponent of the Bakken pipeline that Texas-based Dakota Access LLC is in the process of burying across Iowa. In March, Murken raised questions about an electrical substation being built for a pipeline pumping station adjacent to land owned by Dakota Access in rural Story County, arguably in violation of the Iowa Utilities Board’s pre-construction conditions for the project. Last month, she helped organize the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition’s flotilla on the Des Moines River protesting the project.

There’s little that county boards of supervisors can do now to halt the project, which has won approval from the IUB but is still awaiting a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bury the pipeline under about nine miles of waterways across the state. Story County supervisors have repeatedly declined to take a stand against the project, despite the urging of Murken and others with the League of Women Voters. Boone County supervisors had considered a community bill of rights to oppose the project at the local level but backed down on the advice of the county attorney, who feared a costly legal battle. Boards in Calhoun and Buena Vista counties last year backed down after passing local regulations and subsequently facing legal action from Dakota Access.

“I will continue to work against [the pipeline],” Murken told the Ames Tribune, which published more information about her nomination in Sunday’s paper. “If I’m elected county supervisor and the pipeline goes through I will make sure that county officials, and I know they will, but I will make sure and I will help them as much as I can to do their job of the oversight of the construction and operation of that pipeline.”

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.