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Thursday, June 11, 2015 12:05 am

Major oil pipeline planned near Springfield

Would connect North Dakota to Gulf of Mexico via Illinois

Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT

 

Construction could start soon on a major pipeline passing through Illinois, but the project faces negotiations with landowners and opposition from environmentalists.

The pipeline, which would connect the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico, would run southwest of Springfield, passing Jacksonville, Litchfield and other nearby cities. The project would require some landowners to sell their property through eminent domain. It comes on the heels of a similar but separate project – the Keystone XL pipeline – being vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners seeks permission from the Illinois Commerce Commission to build a pipeline through the state. The company must get permission not only to build the pipeline, but also to use eminent domain powers for land acquisition.

The pipeline would enter the state from Iowa near Carthage, Illinois, and travel southeast to the regionally important hub at Patoka in southern Illinois. That leg would be called the Dakota Access Pipeline. Another leg, called the ETCO pipeline, would be made by repurposing an existing natural gas line that runs from Patoka to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for the project, says the 30-inch diameter pipeline would be buried underground, would be monitored constantly and would have automatic shutoff valves to prevent leaks or spills. She says the project will use all union labor, at least 50 percent of which will be hired from the communities through which the pipeline passes.

While no landowners have filed documents outright opposing the project, several have made clear that they expect just compensation if their land is used. It’s too early in the negotiation process to tell how easily an agreement will be reached, but at least one landowner has shown some hesitation.

William Klingele lives in Plainfield in the west suburbs of Chicago but owns farmland in the path of the pipeline. Klingele told the ICC in testimony submitted on May 20 that his grandfather began farming the land in the 1920s.

“All of us are rooted in our land,” he said.

Klingele told the commission that it’s too early for Dakota Access to begin negotiating an eminent domain agreement with landowners because the project itself doesn’t have approval from the ICC.

“I am not interested in spending time and money, including paying an attorney, to deal with negotiating an easement for the pipeline,” he said, “when we do not know if the commission is going to approve it at all, and if it does, what the route will be.”

Asked whether he considers the pipeline a reasonable use of his land, Klingele said he has “great reservations” about the project.

“A crude oil pipeline intruding on fertile farmland exposes the landowner to risks that make the project a questionable one,” he said. “The commission should take great care in considering all relevant factors before allowing such an intrusion onto our land and into long-established farming practices, the products of which help feed the world.”

Tabitha Tripp, an environmentalist from Anna, Illinois, filed documents in opposition to the project earlier this month. Tripp says the project would pump oil through an important watershed in southern Illinois, and she worries about the potential for contamination from leaks or spills.

Tripp believes the real goal of the project is to transport oil from Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. She points to a complex series of business holdings that link Energy Transfer Partners to the oil company Sunoco, which owns interests in Canadian tar sand oil production. The Dakota Access Pipeline would begin not far from the existing TransCanada Pipeline, Tripp said.

Granado said transporting Canadian oil is not the project’s goal. If the ICC approves the project, Granado says construction will begin immediately, and operation is expected to begin by the end of 2016.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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