The state has a crucial role in the high-stakes fight to prevent DAPL from doubling its capacity

By Amelia Diehl

A thousand miles downstream from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, a billboard near downtown Chicago flashes a message urging support for the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL): “Dakota Access for Illinois Energy #SupportDakotaAccess.” Chicago is two hundred and fifty miles away from where the actual oil pipeline crosses through Illinois, and some viewers—who mostly associate the pipeline with North Dakota and the Standing Rock Sioux’s prominent 2016 fight against its construction there—might be surprised to find it in their city. But Chicago has a role to play in deciding DAPL’s future: the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), which has offices in Springfield and Chicago, will soon make a vital decision about whether to allow DAPL to continue to expand its infrastructure in Illinois. The ICC is slated to hold its next evidentiary hearing in early March on whether DAPL should be allowed to double its capacity, after environmental groups intervening in court have prolonged the process.

Despite facing one of the largest movements of Indigenous-led resistance in decades, DAPL has been pumping crude oil since it went into operation in June 2017. The $3.8 billion pipeline transports oil underground 1,172 miles from North Dakota southeast through South Dakota and Iowa to oil storage tanks near Patoka, Illinois. Every day, five-hundred-seventy thousand barrels of oil pass beneath the Lake Oahe reservoir, a sacred water source the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and nearby communities rely on. At least twelve million people live downstream, within the basin of the Missouri River, the longest river in North America.

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In sharing a watershed, these communities share an ecosystem of heightened risk. DAPL, one of many pipelines in the region, has already leaked at least ten times in its two years of operation, according to federal data. To add to that risk, this past summer, DAPL’s owner Dakota Access and parent company Energy Transfer revealed plans to double the pipeline’s capacity, and have been petitioning the four states along its route to upgrade existing pumping stations or add new pumping stations in order to make this possible. Court processes have been slowed down in all but South Dakota, where commissioners have approved the company’s petition.

The #NoDAPL movement that erupted in 2016, led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and backed by thousands around the world, brought attention to the ways oil pipelines often threaten Indigenous rights, guaranteed by federal treaties. For the mostly white landowners along the route who were not immediately opposed to the project, the pipeline continues to add controversy: some praise the jobs, while many farmers have suffered crop losses. Opponents say the pumping stations and additional oil capacity exacerbate the existing risks of an already volatile project, and with huge ramifications for further destabilizing the global climate. The ICC case in Illinois, alongside similar processes in the other affected states, has become a heated arena to not only challenge DAPL, but confront the broader powers of the fossil fuel industry.


While new pipeline was built in northern Illinois to complete DAPL in 2016, many residents downstate weren’t immediately aware of the urgency of the risk, because to them, what would become a crucial part of the DAPL system had already been built. A different pipeline, now called Energy Transfer Crude Oil pipeline (ETCO), used to carry natural gas from the Gulf Coast inland, but it was converted to carry crude oil in the opposite direction. Together with DAPL, the lines are called the Bakken system, named for the large amount of oil stored underground in the Bakken Formation rock unit underlying parts of North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. These changes, granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014, seemed to happen largely under the radar.

Illinois’s role in the current capacity expansion might have fallen under the radar, too, if not for utility regulation attorney John Albers getting a notification. (He was notified because he used to work as an administrative law judge for the ICC.) Albers passed the information to local groups, who mobilized to attend the first scheduling hearing. Groups including Save Our Illinois Land (SOIL), Natural Resource Defense Council, and the Sierra Club have now been accepted as intervenors in the case before the ICC, which means they are considered formal parties in the proceedings and allowed to submit briefs, oral arguments, and testimony. Environmental activists think the companies were eager to expedite the court process, but the intervenors’ involvement this time has bought them some time.

The presence of environmental groups as intervenors is a notable change from when the ICC was presented with DAPL’s original proposal in 2014. Tabitha Tripp, an activist living an hour and a half south  of Patoka, in Union County, intervened as an individual in spite of the companies and ICC staff attempting to have her testimony stricken. “If the government isn’t willing to question what a business is doing, its impact on biological necessities, like water and air, then we as citizens have to stand up against that,” she said.

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The DAPL billboard in Chicago. Photo courtesy Amelia Diehl.

Tripp said many Illinois residents became politicized when they saw the footage of resistance at Standing Rock, but at that time the Illinois pipeline was already almost finished, and, she said, it was too little too late. Many Illinois residents are used to living near large extractive projects like coal mining, logging, and quarries, she said—but DAPL was different; it meant the use of eminent domain, or the ability of the government to take private property for public benefit.

An ongoing legal case concerning DAPL’s use of eminent domain in Iowa was settled this past May, after a group of landowners in Iowa had sued the Iowa Utilities Board, arguing Dakota Access, a private company, shouldn’t be considered a public utility. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain was justified, as the pipeline could provide public benefits by making petroleum cheaper. (This fall, Dakota Access made donations to the Future Farmers of America and 4-H foundations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.)

The threat of eminent domain was a big reason why Bill Klingele joined about a dozen other Illinois landowners to intervene in DAPL’s petition before the ICC back in 2014. Klingele’s family owns a hundred-and-thirty-acre farm in Brown County, in the middle-west part of the state, just a hundred and fifty feet from the pipeline. The farmland, tilled in the early 1900s, was passed on to him and his two sisters, who rent it out to cousins to grow corn and soybeans. The pipeline’s route was eventually altered so that it didn’t actually pass through on his property, but this was not the case for many other landowners.

Now, Klingele’s land is about forty miles downstream from where the company wants to build a new thirty thousand horsepower pumping station, near Carthage. While Tripp isn’t involved this time around, Klingele has been accepted as an intervenor again to battle the doubling, which would also happen in two other places: ETCO’s section would get another station, with eighteen thousand horsepower, in Massac County, near Joppa, a village of four hundred; and two new six thousand- horsepower pumps and motors at its existing pumping station near Patoka, which would bring the total horsepower at Patoka to twenty-four thousand horsepower. The companies would not need to invoke eminent domain for these stations, since they would be on land already acquired.

In their joint petition, Dakota Access and Energy Transfer claim that the pumping changes they now push for “will not alter the existing maximum operating pressure of the DAPL or ETCO,” but when the pipeline was first being proposed, opponents were already concerned about it not being able to handle its existing pressure and capacity. As technical expert Richard Kuprewicz, president of pipeline safety company Accufacts, testified on October 1, 2019 on behalf of SOIL and Sierra Club, the pipeline’s expansion would increase the oil velocity to higher than fifteen feet per second, which he said is extremely high. High velocities can quickly lead to extremely high pressures, greatly increasing the risk of a rupture, as well as increasing the potential amount of oil spilled. Leaks along the Bakken system have amounted to at least five thousands of gallons of oil spilled already.

Opponents also point out that Energy Transfer, one of the nation’s largest pipeline operators,  holds a troubling safety record. In Pennsylvania, Energy Transfer and its subsidiary Sunoco are under criminal investigation for misconduct related to the construction of the Mariner East pipeline system, which transports natural gas across the state. A Reuters analysis found that Energy Transfer racked up more than eight hundred violations for that project, compared to an average of nineteen violations for similar projects.

Pipeline pressure is highest downstream of the pumping stations stations, making leaks more likely there—and Klingele was already worried about a spill. His farm’s drainage system is three feet underground and reaches neighboring land where DAPL is buried six feet underground, so any spill could enter his land through the draining system. And, of course, it’s not just his land at risk: the pipeline crosses under more than fifty rivers, large and small, across the state, while about a fourth of all US agricultural land is found within the Missouri river basin. Much of the area along DAPL’s route was hit hard by unprecedented flooding last spring and summer, the cause of which is largely linked to climate change. “We’re talking about earth, land, soil that was formed naturally over millions of years,” Klingele said. “How do you replace that? When you ruin a large amount of the soil, how do you adequately replace that? The soil is not a business for me, it’s a heritage.”


The ICC, its urban offices surrounded by paved-over soil, is tasked with balancing “the interests of consumers and utilities.” According to the section of the Public Utilities Act through which the companies are petitioning, the ICC would approve any project that is “necessary and should be erected, to promote the security or convenience of…the public…or in any other way to secure adequate service or facilities.” For the DAPL case, according to Vicki Crawford, the ICC’s Senior Public Information Officer, after the case is heard, staff members will make their recommendations, Administrative Law Judge Glennon Dolan will make a proposed order, and the commissioners have the final say in a vote.

A simple majority is needed to approve ICC decisions. There can be no more than three members of the same political party on the commission at a time. After Democratic governor JB Pritzker appointed Michael Carrigan in early February, replacing Republican-appointed ICC chair Brien Sheahan, the ICC is back to a Democratic majority, with one Republican and one independent. The ICC had a Democratic majority when it approved DAPL’s original petition in December 2015, with three commissioners appointed by Democratic governor Pat Quinn, and two by Republican governor Bruce Rauner.

None of the current commissioners—who have five-year terms— served during the time of ICC’s original DAPL decision, so it’s not easy to predict how they might rule. So far, Brett Seagle, a gas engineer and one of the ICC staff members tasked with reviewing the testimony, has recommended the ICC approve the petition. Of the more than sixty public comments that have been filed to the ICC, only three express support for the pipeline’s expansion. While Pritzker’s role in ICC decisions ends in appointing commissioners, his Statement of Economic Interests, submitted during his bid for governor, revealed a troubling conflict of interest: he has a partnership interest with Energy Transfer, among ties with other energy companies, including stock in fossil fuel infrastructure giant Kinder Morgan. Carrigan acted as President of the Illinois AFL-CIO for more than a decade, and was formerly employed as an electrician by IBEW Local 146, a member of AFL-CIO. A different IBEW Local chapter, Local 702, is intervening in the case in support of DAPL’s expansion. While Carrigan has yet to be confirmed by the Illinois Senate, he can assume his role.

Webster - DAPL

DAPL in 2016, being installed between farm fields. Photo by Tony Webster (Creative Commons).

For the laborers intervening in support of the expansion—IBEW Local 702 and the Midwest Region of Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA)—the promise of jobs and wider economic growth from the pipeline is vital, and they want those jobs as quickly as possible. As Jeff Naville of LIUNA put it during a scheduling hearing, “The earlier schedule is preferable for us, as our folks just want to have the opportunity to go to work.” In fact, DAPL made the promise of jobs for Illinois residents the subject of a Super Bowl ad that aired this year.

While jobs tend to be a common reason for the ICC to approve projects, there is usually little follow-up on the employment projections given by companies. Lawyers for IBEW Local 702, whose members were employed during DAPL’s initial construction in Illinois, say the union “anticipates that its members would help comprise the workforce.” LIUNA’s petition to intervene mentions that the proposed project would create “dozens of jobs” for its members. In their initial petition, Dakota Access and Energy Transfer mention their intentions to contract out workers, without offering specific numbers. (A company representative did not return my requests for comment.)

[Editor’s note: after the publication of this story, Energy Transfer replied, estimating that up to seven hundred jobs will be created, “not including the increased opportunities with the local electrical companies.” The company provided the following numbers: “Construction of each new pump station–one each in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois along DAPL–will employ 75-100 construction-related jobs over a period of 6 – 9 months. Each local electrical company will also employ skilled labor resources to install the infrastructure that will supply power to the new pump stations.” The company estimates up to three hundred jobs for Illinois and between seventy-five and one hundred jobs in North Dakota. The type of work is expected to include “electricians, construction engineers, ironworkers, carpenters, welders, inspectors (civil, structural, electrical, mechanical and piping), surveyors, concrete specialists, pipe fitters, heavy equipment operators, and truck drivers, to name a few.”]

Regardless of any prospective job gains, opposing intervenors hope the ICC can consider the interests of a broader public, given the global and long-lasting stakes of continuing to rely on oil. “The benefit to the people in Illinois just isn’t there,” Klingele said. “And the risk is taken by the owners of the land. And there’s a public risk of contaminating our waterways.”


Tn addition to touting job creation, the pro-pipeline Super Bowl ad and the billboards in Chicago imply that DAPL’s oil would go to Illinois consumers. But intervenors all along the route argue that this oil was never meant for U.S. consumption and that, in fact, the doubling of pipeline capacity is part of a larger trend of rapidly expanding oil production and transportation in order to serve foreign markets. Intervenors hope that, by proving the oil is destined for outside markets, they can show that the project, let alone its expansion, couldn’t possibly fulfill public interest.

The ICC judge had originally decided that whether or not the oil was shipped to overseas markets was irrelevant to public need, but after Sierra Club and SOIL appealed, the judge’s January 24 order requires Dakota Access and Energy Transfer to disclose the names of their clients, which the intervenors expect to be overseas markets. In September 2019, Energy Transfer acquired SemGroup and announced plans to build more infrastructure to bring oil between two Gulf Coast export terminals. An analysis by the Real News Network found that the company is applying for a deepwater docking permit with the U.S. Maritime Administration, which would make exports by oil tanker more affordable. Glen Emery, Energy Transfer’s vice president of consumer operators, in his October 22 testimony, denied that most of the oil would be due for export, and said that “this transition to and position as an exporter is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

DAPL is already pumping more than any other pipeline ever built in North Dakota, and if this doubling passes, DAPL’s 1.1 million barrels a day would put it on the higher end of the spectrum for U.S. pipelines. In its expansion plan, submitted to North Dakota’s Public Service Commission on June 20 (with language that echoes its June 14 filing with the ICC), Dakota Access justifies its doubling petition through roundabout economic logic: “This increase in production has led to an increase in demand for crude oil transportation services on the DAPL that exceeds the existing capacity of the pipeline. Thus, an increase in the DAPL’s capacity is needed to satisfy the growing demand.”

But the oil market’s model of supply and demand amounts to “a hamster wheel of an industry with no way to stop,” said Lorne Stockman, senior research analyst at Oil Change International, a research organization that advocates for a just transition away from fossil fuels. DAPL’s oil is only accessible through fracking, an energy-intensive industry that’s on a boom to bust trajectory. Approximately four hundred and fifty million barrels of oil were extracted from the Bakken formation between 2008 and 2013; now, North Dakota averages 1.5 million barrels of oil each day. But the U.S. Geological Service estimates that there may be only 4.4 to 11.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil there. Technically recoverable means that while technology might exist to extract the oil, it may cost more than the oil is worth. A recent New York Times article reported North Dakota officials expect the state’s oil production to peak in just five years.

“Production has grown but they haven’t actually been that profitable. A lot of the production growth is driven by this kind of rat race to try and reach a point of profitability,” Stockman said. “It’s got nothing to do with demand for oil. They’ve been producing more oil than the American market can consume.”

DAPL pumps light crude oil, as opposed to the heavy crude found in the Alberta tar sands. U.S. refineries can’t do much with this light crude, however, according to Stockman. When the tar sands market began growing, U.S. refineries, such as those mostly found in the Gulf Coast, invested heavily in new or upgraded infrastructure to be able to process its output. Therefore, the U.S. market for light crude is limited, which explains why DAPL connected to ETCO to reach the Gulf Coast. Much of DAPL’s light crude is refined into gasoline, or other products that are used to make plastic.

The U.S. has quickly grown to become one of the world’s top oil exporters, after Congress and the Obama administration lifted a forty-year export ban in 2015. In September 2019, an Energy Information Assessment report showed that the U.S. had briefly surpassed Saudia Arabia in oil exports. In November 2019, the U.S. broke an industry record for producing 12.8 billion barrels a day. The U.S. now exports about three million barrels per day of crude oil and another five million barrels per day of natural gas liquids and petroleum products. “Since, 2015 or 2016, pretty much every barrel of production growth has had to go to exports because the U.S. refineries just cannot take any more [light crude oil],” Stockman said. “There’s no way any refineries on the Gulf Coast need any more Bakken oil. It’s almost guaranteed every one of these barrels in this expansion project is destined for export markets.”

“At this point I’m never surprised about the ambitions of fossil fuel companies to get more product into the market,” said Dallas Goldtooth, the Keep It In the Ground campaign organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network, who was very active in the original #NoDAPL movement. He spoke against the doubling petition at a September rally held in Chicago. “These bastards want to keep on poisoning the Earth as fast as possible for their own benefit. It’s all about profit.”


But, of course, the opposing intervenors along the route don’t want DAPL’s oil in the market at all, either in the U.S. or globally. The carbon emissions from oil extraction pose too big of a risk to the overall climate. The world’s leading climate scientists, as part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, announced in 2018 that the world had twelve years left to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis. With our very existence at stake, the climate justice movement is resolved to not let any fossil fuel project go unchallenged, on the ground or in the courts. Every drop of oil that can be spared matters. “We’re not interested in [the oil] going anywhere, we want to keep it in the ground,” said Rick Stuckey, a member of SOIL and Sierra Club, who is submitting testimony in the court process.

While the impacts of climate change are not central to the opposing intervenors’ arguments, Albers, who worked as an ICC judge for seventeen years, thinks it’s the first time climate change has been invoked in an Illinois case as a reason for opposing an infrastructure project. James Hansen, a leading climate scientist at Columbia University, testified against the project on behalf of SOIL during the October 1 evidentiary hearing. In 1988, while at NASA, he gave historic testimony warning the Senate of the effects of greenhouse gases. As scientists knew then, building fossil fuel extraction projects like DAPL further entrench the U.S.’s dependence on fuel sources known to cause the climate crisis.

Hansen urged the ICC to see the bigger picture and make “the right choice  … that other authorities can emulate,” to “dispute the presumption of fossil fuel interests that all fossil fuels ought to be burned.” “There remains a real, but time-limited, opportunity to commence a phase-down of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions so as to restore energy balance and stabilize the climate system. Increased exploitation of fossil fuel reserves, including from the Bakken formation, cuts sharply in the wrong direction,” he told the ICC. “It will flood the market and reduce the impetus for development of and reliance upon non-carbon sources of energy.”

Hansen’s calculations found that the additional crude would emit about ninety-seven million megatons of CO2-equivalent per year, roughly equal to the emissions from fifteen one-thousand-megawatt coal plants, or twenty million cars.  In response to Hansen’s testimony, David Harrison, an economist, pointed to market mechanisms as effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as opposed to blocking pipeline expansions. Many environmental activists criticize these tactics, such as cap and trade, because they still allow companies to continue polluting. “It’s just an … overwhelming catastrophe that’s facing us. And the fossil fuel industry and the pipeline companies are acting as if it’s no big deal,” said Mary Shesgreen, an activist with SOIL.


As Illinois awaits the conclusion of its court proceedings, the fight against expansion continues in North Dakota and Iowa. In South Dakota, unlike in the other three states, the authority to approve or reject Dakota Access’s doubling petition fell to a county body, rather than a state agency. Dakota Access had petitioned to build a new pumping station in Harrisburg, just south of Sioux Falls in the southeast part of the state. Lincoln County commissioners’ initial decision to approve the new station was appealed, but later re-approved October 22. One commissioner did vote against the pumping station out of concern that there was not enough protection against someone harming the facility. The commissioners eventually added a stipulation that the facility have a buffer of two rows of trees at least six-feet tall. (In Illinois, the companies’ plan is to surround the pumping stations with six-feet high metal fencing.)

His concerns seemed to mirror those of South Dakota and other state legislatures that have been passing or considering legislation escalating the legal consequences for being associated with protests against fossil fuel infrastructure—despite the #NoDAPL movement only participating in peaceful acts of protest. Known as “critical infrastructure bills,” they are largely based on a model bill promoted by the conservative think tank American Legislative Exchange Council, which is backed heavily by the fossil fuel industry. Goldtooth thinks this reflects an inappropriate level of cooperation. “There appears to be a pretty well-developed relationship between the oil industry and a lot of these anti-protest laws,” he said. North Dakota passed similar legislation in 2017,as did Iowa in 2018, while Illinois has one bill tabled in the Senate.

This legal backdrop partly explained the tension at the November 13 hearing in North Dakota, where the state’s Public Service Commission was considering Energy Transfer’s petition to build five six-thousand-horsepower electric-motor pumps at its station, on the other side of the Missouri River, across from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Reservations. Hundreds of Indigenous water protectors and allies were bussed in from nearby to testify against the proposed expansion, and the site was swarmed with police, private security and FBI agents. The meeting began at nine a.m. and didn’t end until after midnight, due to a long list of presentations and public testimony. It was a snapshot of the outpouring of community that erupted back in 2016, when thousands of people from around the world came to live in camps to protect the water, sharing meals, practicing ceremony, and praying.

While the three state commissioners prepare to make their decision, the Standing Rock Sioux and three other Dakotas-based tribes are suing the Army Corps of Engineers, claiming they were never consulted on the pipeline. When a newly-elected Donald Trump reversed the Obama Administration’s denial of a key permit, in early 2017, construction was expedited without an environmental impact statement or additional public hearings. During construction, the Army Corps of Engineers bulldozed acres of ancient burial and ceremonial sites of cultural, historic, and religious importance to Lakota peoples. Construction also damaged the surrounding wildlife and ecology along the route. State and federal agencies surveilled Indigenous water protectors and their allies, and used dogs and chemical weapons to control protestors. “This was a rigged process intended to justify a dangerous and illegal pipeline,” Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith told the Associated Press in a written statement. (The Standing Rock Sioux did not respond to interview requests for this story.)

A federal court is expected to rule on this legal challenge this year; oral arguments are scheduled for March 13. Meanwhile, In Iowa, Dakota Access and Energy Transfer notified the Iowa Utilities Board of its plans to increase oil capacity by upgrading an existing substation in Cambridge, in central Iowa—a “courtesy notice” more than asking for permission. Dakota Access also requested to have the requirement for a public hearing waived, claiming it would cause “undue hardship,” despite holding public hearings in all three other states. Several advocacy groups filed objections, and on January 13, the IUB ordered the company to provide more technical information about the implications of increased capacity within thirty days.

IUB’s decision will eventually be up to just two people, after a conflict of interest was revealed about a third commissioner. (When Richard Lozier was appointed in 2017 by Republican Governor Terry Branstad, it was revealed that previously, while working as an attorney with Belin McCormick law firm, he had represented a client, Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, which had promoted DAPL.) With Lozier recusing himself from all votes related to DAPL, IUB’s decision will have to be unanimous to pass. Both of these members, Geri Huser and Nick Wagner, voted to approve the original DAPL petition in 2016. But Ed Fallon, an organizer with Bold Iowa, doesn’t think it’s a guaranteed rubber stamp; IUB didn’t consider climate change when the pipeline was first approved, but this will be central to the argument to fight the increased capacity. The pipeline was a “wake up call for people”, Fallon said, “who have never seen anything like this before.”

Dakota Access had hoped to complete its “Pipeline Optimization Plan” by early 2021, a process it says will take eight to ten months, but that timeline now seems unrealistic given the court delays all along the route. Joye Braun, an organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network who attended the November 13 hearing in North Dakota, said the #NoDAPL movement awakened the world in a way that can’t be taken back. “The spirits told us to take the cry of Mni Wiconi to the world, and we’ve done that,” she said. Mni Wiconi, meaning “water is life” in the Lakota language, is a rallying cry in the NoDAPL movement.


There’s another saying in the climate justice movement: we are all downstream. Those who invoke it also mean it as an inescapable fact: when your water is poisoned, eventually mine will be too. By the same token, protecting your water is the same as protecting mine—and neither of us own it anyway. Either way, our struggles are interconnected.

State lines, or reservation borders, create the illusion of boundaries; but oil, like the rivers and soil it often spills into, cannot be confined to these arbitrary containers once it is extracted. Oil pipelines have a way of threading their own resistance, making land-based stakes known; the blocky cylinder cinches together the disparate communities along their routes like a string of fate, a shared watershed of danger. When the pipeline was first being proposed, people in each state along the route had a role in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. Now, that distributed power is reactivated again against this latest onslaught.

“What Native Americans [fighting] Dakota Access did at Standing Rock [was] they brought world attention to the fossil fuel industry, and we owe them such a debt of gratitude, so we definitely have to support them,” said Dave Davis, an organizer with SOIL who was heavily involved with supporting Tabitha Tripp as an intervenor.

“We can find an alternative for [oil]. But we can’t find an alternative for water. And we can’t find an alternative for the air we breathe,” Braun said. “We are in a climate catastrophe right now. And we must pay attention to what is going on. Mother Earth is screaming. And this isn’t to be some hippie-dippie shit. This is Indigenous people saying, look, pay attention, we’ve been telling you this, and now you’re at the precipice about to fall off the edge. The Earth will continue, but we may not. And we have to fight now.” ■


*Correction: this story originally stated that Tabitha Tripp lives in Anna County, Illinois (she lives in Union County) and that Richard Lozier was appointed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (he was appointed by her predecessor, Terry Branstad).



Amelia Diehl is a writer based in Chicago. She is a contributing editor for The Trouble, an online magazine covering the politics of climate change. She can be reached at

Cover image of a protest in 2016. Photo by Fibonacci Blue (Creative Commons).

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