Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Nov. 24, 25 or 26
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 the Marion County town of Patoka, 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.
“This is not a partisan issue,” commented Illinois native Paul Reynolds, who’s worked for utility projects in Arizona. “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!” he continued. “Do big companies go bankrupt and leave the cleaning to someone else? All the time. Do pipelines leak and pollute? Sometimes.”
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 Fort Madison at 1 p.m. Monday at the Comfort Inn, and in Ottumwa at 9 a.m. Dec. 16 at Bridge View Center. The company hasn’t announced Illinois gatherings.
“The plan was hatched in secret,” says ICCI, and Reynolds agrees.
“For the last 20 years I worked directly in siting power plants and transmission lines for the largest electric utility in Arizona,” he said. “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 says no application has been received as of Nov. 20, 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.
[PICTURED: Energy Transfer's map of its proposed Bakken pipeline route through Illinois.]