By David Goodner
Energy Transfer Partners, a Fortune 500 corporation attempting to build a controversial crude oil pipeline through the state of Iowa, has hired Governor Terry Branstad´s former chief of staff to lobby on its behalf at the state legislature.
Jeff Boeyink, a long-time confidant and ally of Governor Branstad, who served as the governor´s chief of staff from 2010-2013, registered as a paid lobbyist for Energy Transfer Partners on January 5, a DeSmogBlog review of Iowa statehouse documents found.
Boeyink is also a former Executive Director of the Iowa Republican Party and has close ties to New Jersey governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.
He is currently Senior Vice President at the corporate public relations firm LS2group, which has represented Energy Transfer Partners in Iowa since at least July 2014.
LS2group is the same consulting and marketing firm that helped the American Petroleum Institute bring General James Jones to Des Moines on Earth Day last year to give a speech promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.
LS2group´s Director of Government Affairs, Susan Severino Fenton, another Iowa Republican political insider, is also a registered statehouse lobbyist for Energy Transfer Partners.
On February 17, Boeyink attended an Iowa Senate Commerce subcommittee meeting and spoke out against Iowa Senate File 129, a proposed insurance liability bill that could require Energy Transfer Partners to prove it can afford to pay up to $250,000 per mile for any potential oil spills from its pipeline operations.
“We believe the intent of SF 129 is to hold polluters responsible for the full cost of cleanup efforts, so we support it,” Rita Carter, a spokeswoman for the Iowa United Methodist Conference, told DeSmogBlog. “Many members of the United Methodist churches are concerned about the potential damage to farmland and especially to the quality of our water resources” if the Bakken oil pipeline is built, she continued.
“The crude oil that the 30-inch diameter pipeline stretching 1,134 miles diagonally across 18 Iowa counties and carrying an estimated 320,000 barrels daily to other locations for transport will not ultimately benefit Iowans, our farmland, or our water,” Carter said.
Energy Transfer Partners says that its Dakota Access pipeline could transport as much as 570,000 barrels of crude per day.
Governor Branstad has previously stated he would not issue an executive order to block construction of the pipeline. He has also called on the Iowa legislature to avoid “political interference” and stay off the turf of the Iowa Utilities Board.
Iowa Utilities Board members are appointed by the governor. According to Iowa Code 479B.8, to grant a pipeline permit to Energy Transfer Partners, the Iowa Utilities Board must determine that “the proposed services will promote the public convenience and necessity” and may impose “terms, conditions, and restrictions as to location and route.”
But some Iowa legislators are bucking the governor´s warnings and are attempting to strengthen public oversight over the permitting process. Iowa Senate File 129 was introduced by Iowa state senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), an environmentalist who has made climate change one of his signature issues.
A conservative libertarian legislator, state representative Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton), a rising young star in the Iowa Republican Party, has also indicated he will take action on the Bakken oil pipeline.
“The bill I plan to introduce would prohibit private entities from using eminent domain in projects of a certain size,” Kaufmann told the Iowa Environmental Council during an Environmental Lobby Day February 17.
Jeff Boeyink did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Image credit: Iowa flag map via Shutterstock.