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OCA & Organic Community Victory: Oil Pipeline will be Re-routed Around Minnesota Organic Farms

  • Letter and Article About Gardens of Eagan
    Paula Maccabee/St. Paul Pioneer Press, Posted on September 6, 2006
    Straight to the Source

Dear Friends:

Attached with this email, please find an article from this morning's Pioneer Press. The Gardens of Eagan, our client, was able to reach an agreement with the Minnesota Pipe Line Company to prevent a crude oil pipeline from crossing their certified organic farm.

In what may be the first legal agreement of its type in the country, Minnesota Pipe Line Company also agreed to take specific precautions in the construction process to mitigate damage to organic farms.  These precautions protect organic soils and reduce the risk of organic decertification. Our summary of the agreement is also attached.

This victory was only possible due to courage and passion of Atina and Martin Diffley and due to the support of literally thousands of people who stood alongside them. The community of organic consumers, farmers  and businesses (Organic Consumers Association, Wedge Co-op, Mississippi Market, MOSES, Land Stewardship Project) helped spread the word, resulting in more than 3,000 letters to the administrative law judge and other officials.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Organic Advisory Task Force helped define differences between organic and conventional agriculture.

Expert witnesses, Dr. Deborah Allan, Jim Riddle and Craig Minowa submitted vital testimony, and both Dr. Allan and Mr. Riddle played an important advisory role at every step of the process.

In what can be discouraging times, it is wonderful to see that a concerted community-based and legal effort can be successful in protecting not only the individual dreams of dedicated organic farmers, but the resources and values of sustainable agriculture. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Atina and Martin and the powerful and ethical community which rallied to help protect their farm.

If you would like to know more, please feel free to call me.

Best regards,

Paula Maccabee, Esq.
Just Change Consulting
1961 Selby Ave.
St. Paul MN  55104
phone: 651-646-8890
fax: 651-646-5754
Cell: 651-775-7128
e-mail: pmaccabee@visi.com
http://www.justchangeconsulting.com

_________________________________________________________

Posted on Wed, Sep. 06, 2006
Pipeline to circumvent organic farm
Mitigation plan may set national precedent for organic agriculture
BY FREDERICK MELO
St. Paul Pioneer Press
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/15447868.htm

A settlement agreement reached Friday with the Minnesota Pipe Line Co. reroutes a proposed 300-mile oil pipeline to avoid 100 acres of organic cropland in Dakota County. The way Atina Diffley sees it, the sun isn't shining brighter just on the Gardens of Eagan. The recent legal agreement, thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, may boost the outlook for organic farms everywhere.

"I'm beyond happy," said Diffley, who once feared the MinnCan Project would first skewer and then shutter her family's organic farm south of Farmington.

Instead, the Diffleys feel they have scored a double victory.

In an additional windfall, a separate mitigation plan outlines the sensitive measures the pipeline group is expected to take to protect the three organic farms along its construction route.

The five-page document, entered into public record Tuesday, would require construction crews to replace bird and insect habitat needed to keep pests at bay. It would bar crews from contaminating organic soils with chemicals, soil, water or fertilizers from neighboring conventional farms. Even tobacco use would be prohibited.

Administrative Law Judge Beverly Heydinger received the plan from the state Department of Agriculture during a public hearing at Farmington High School. Another hearing has been scheduled for Thursday at New Prague High School in Scott County.

The state Public Utilities Commission is expected to approve the mitigation requirements and make its final decision on the route by early December.

Organic farmers are cheering the plan, saying it may constitute a precedent-setting agreement that will help them keep their organic certification in the face of future pipeline projects, according to Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association.

"Part of the reason for taking this legal action was not only to prevent this pipeline from disrupting several organic farms in Minnesota but also to set a legal precedent for any other organic farms in the state, or anywhere in the United States," Cummins said.

His organization, based in Finland, Minn., tapped its Minnesota network of 30,000 volunteers, produce customers and farmers to wage a letter-writing campaign on the Diffleys' behalf. That lent some public-relations muscle as legal talks progressed between the pipeline group and Paula Maccabee, a public interest attorney who represents the family.

Pipeline construction is expected to pass through at least three organic farms, disrupting sensitive topsoils that may take years to regain their fertility without chemical fertilizers. But with careful planning, organic farms may be able to keep their federal certifications even with an oil pipeline running beneath them, MinnCan consultants said.

"It can be done," said Richard Skarie of the Minneapolis-based Natural Resource Group. "It will be an inconvenience for the construction process. Anything that slows you down costs money."

The pipeline group is more than midway through its state permitting process. The MinnCan Project, its second crude oil pipeline through Minnesota, would stretch from Clearbrook, Minn., to the Flint Hills Refinery in Rosemount. Construction would take place in 2007, and the new pipeline could be operational by early 2008.

When completed, the $300 million project is expected to draw as many as 165,000 barrels of Canadian oil per day. An existing 51-year-old pipeline carries about 300,000 barrels daily to Twin Cities refineries but is expected to reach capacity by next year.

The Minnesota Pipe Line Co. is owned jointly by Flint Hills Resources, Marathon Pipe Line LLC and Trof Inc. Its pipelines are operated by a subsidiary of Koch Industries Inc.

The company has been meeting individually with more than 1,000 landowners along the proposed route to reach settlements or discuss concerns, according to Patty Dunn of the public relations firm Goff and Howard.

"Part of the settlement for us had to be the mitigation plan," said Diffley, whose 32-year-old farm is known as one of the oldest certified organic farms in the country. "Just taking (the route) off our farm wouldn't be enough. We were fighting for both.

"This is really the first time it's been recognized that, hey, if we really mean what we say about wanting local foods, than we (should) create a protection for them," she continued. "Organic local food is constantly being threatened by development."

Frederick Melo can be reached at fmelo@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-2172.

© 2006 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.twincities.com

 


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