‘Tickle Mother Nature. Never Fondle Mother Nature,” Says Pipeline Opponent

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PILOT MOUND, Iowa -- LaVerne Johnson says his family's farm has been in Boone County since at least the early 1900s. He is fine the way it is now and is now going to court to stop it from changing.

Johnson's property lies along the path of the proposed Bakken Pipeline, the underground crude pathway. Texas-based Dakota Pipeline wants to build from Iowa's northwest corner to the state's southeast corner. Iowa is in the middle of the company's plan to find a quicker, cheaper route to get its valuable, but corrosive, crude oil from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast.

"Every farm has a personality," Johnson said. He is concerned about the environmental impact a pipeline could have.

The company wants to run the pipeline under 2.41 acres of Johnson's 220 acres, he said. He doesn't know what it would do to his water drainage system after crews install it and he wonders what happens to his crops from the heat the pipeline emits, not to mention what happens if the pipeline would leak.


(Beans sprout on LaVerne Johnson's 220 acre farm in Pilot Mound. Photo: WHO-TV Chief Photographer Mike Borland.)

"My dad said, 'Always tickle Mother Nature. Never fondle Mother Nature, '" Johnson said.

Johnson has refused to accept the company's one-time payment of approximately $23,000 for the right's to have permanent underground access through the property. He also refused to let the company to survey his land for the future project. That refusal brought him a court injunction on behalf of the company, which he said believes it has the right to enter his property to check it out.

Johnson notified the court of his intentions to fight the injunction. He admitted he doesn't know if he can beat a billion dollar company but said it's a fight that makes sense.

"There's money and there's legacy," Johnson said. "Now, which do you want to be remembered for? Do you want to be remembered for making the most money, however you can make it or do you want to be remembered for doing the right thing? I hope I'm remembered for doing the right thing in this case."

Find out the company's outline for the proposal here.