Published reports say a Texas firm proposes constructing an oil pipeline that would cut diagonally through some 400 miles of Iowa farmland, crossing 17 counties in the state. The 1,100 mile pipeline would join the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota with an existing pipeline in southern Illinois.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin just learned of the proposal this morning and says it’s too early to make a definitive statement on it until more detail is known. “Generally, I favor pipelines over rail,” Harkin says. “It’s cheaper and it’s safer. I just want to make sure that if this is going to happen that it’s thoroughly reviewed, that it is safe, that we take into consideration aquifers and other water sources.”

Environmental groups in Iowa are sounding alerts, fearing a potential threat to the groundwater and the fertile soil that enables Iowa to lead the nation in corn and soybean production. Harkin says he’s familiarizing himself with the type of crude oil coming from North Dakota. “I’m not an expert in this area but I’m told these resources, these new oil finds are more corrosive and more volatile,” Harkin says. “That means that the safety of the pipes have to be uppermost.”

Reports say North Dakota is producing a million gallons of crude oil per day. The proposed pipeline would reportedly carry, at minimum, 320,000 barrels of oil daily. Harkin, a Democrat, says the whole proposal is a look backwards and that more effort needs to be placed on renewable fuels and conservation. “We seem to be continuing to put more and more money into a century-old resource, oil or coal, rather than looking at the 21st, 22nd century energy sources,” Harkin says, “which are solar, wind, geothermal, those things that won’t pollute the atmosphere.”

Those resources, he says, would also “slow down the climate change that is happening so dramatically globally today.” The route of the pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners would enter Lyon County in the far northwest corner of Iowa, cut across the state through Polk County near Des Moines, and exit in Lee County near Keokuk at the far southeastern corner.

Operators of the pipeline will need to meet a host of requirements and regulations though agencies like the Iowa DNR and the state Utilities Board.