WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Pumping Crude Oil Through the Tri States

Dec 3, 2014

Illinoisans disappointed because the U.S. Senate didn’t pass the Keystone XL pipeline measure letting multi-national corporations bring tar-sand Canadian oil down through the Great Plains above major water sources to get crude to refineries to export: Take heart. Another pipeline is planning to plow through 12 Illinois counties after digging up Iowa and the Dakotas.

The Iowa Utilities Board is holding a series of informational meetings this month to discuss the Dakota Access Pipeline Project. An estimated 350 people showed up this week at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Fort Madison, including representatives from the environmental group "100 Grannies for a Livable Future."
Credit Abby Wendle

People who aren’t crazy about a pipeline slicing through – the route looks like an ugly incision – better get engaged with the process.

After the House overwhelmingly approved Keystone on Nov. 14, the Senate on Nov. 18 voted 59-41 –one short of what’s needed to overcome a filibuster. GOP leaders said they’ll reconsider when there are fewer Democrats in January, although President Obama could veto it.

Keystone owner TransCanada says it may go to British Columbia, Montreal or New Brunswick before shipping Canadian oil overseas.

Meanwhile, Dakota Access, an Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) subsidiary, plans to build some 1,134 miles of pipeline, including about 177-miles of 30-inch-diameter pipe through Illinois. This project would move crude oil from the Bakken Shale area in northwestern North Dakota to facilities near Patoka, Ill., where a tank farm is a hub heading to distant refineries and terminals.

Already, some landowners have reportedly received letters from Dakota Access/ETP seeking permission to survey property for the pipeline, which would carry between 300,000 and 450,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

ETP says the pipeline would be within a permanent easement of 50 feet with a construction corridor of up to 150 feet, covered by at least 36 inches of soil, and at least 24 inches away from field drain tiles.

The $3.7 billion project, which also involves Phillips 66, could create 8,000 temporary construction jobs and boost tax receipts to states, supporters claim.

Opponents say this Bakken pipeline would carry oil that’s more flammable than other crude from fracking sites in North Dakota (where shale sites are destroying the land), over aquifers and watersheds, risk leaks, affect property values and continue the planet’s addiction to fossil fuels.

Illinois native Paul Reynolds, who’s worked for utility projects in Arizona, said, “This is not a partisan issue. To the contrary, libertarians, environmentalists, Democrats and Republicans can find things to like and dislike. Can there be benefits to state economies, energy independence, safer transportation, and lower fuel costs? Sure! Is there danger to water, rivers, wildlife, topsoil, tiles and wallets? You bet! Do big companies go bankrupt and leave the cleaning to someone else? All the time. Do pipelines leak and pollute? Sometimes.”

Bill Knight

Nathan Malachowski, an organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI), said, “Bakken crude will not actually contribute to energy independence like they claim, but will instead be exported for higher profit margins.”

Informational meetings have been spotty, although one is scheduled for Ottumwa, Iowa, at 9 a.m. Dec. 16 at Bridge View Center. The company hasn’t announced Illinois gatherings.

The plan was hatched in secret, according to Reynolds, who said, “For the last 20 years I worked directly in siting power plants and transmission lines for the largest electric utility in Arizona. I’ve seen more public discussion around the location of a small electric transformer in a vacant lot than I’ve seen over this massive, four-state invasion of private property.”

Area Farm Bureaus are urging landowners to seek counsel from an experienced pipeline attorney before granting access to property.

The company says it’s finishing an application for an Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) permit and certificate, as well as finalizing a mitigation agreement with the state Department of Agriculture.  But the ICC said no application was received as of late November, the proposed pipeline isn’t listed in its Major Cases, and neither Dakota Access nor ETP is in its list of certified pipeline utilities.

So: There’s still time to investigate and intervene – or maybe to welcome an out-of-state business that will profit enormously by passing through Illinois, jeopardizing the state en route to selling oil to foreign markets.  

Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.