Illinois has become the second state to OK a controversial interstate oil pipeline after the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a permit for Illinois’ segment — 177 miles — of the Bakken pipeline on Wednesday.
The order had yet to be publicly released on Wednesday afternoon, but spokesman Bob Gough confirmed the commission voted 5-0 to approve the permit during its regular bench session earlier in the day.
Dakota Access LLC, the Texas-based oil company proposing the $3.8 billion project, said it was pleased by the decision, in a statement released on Wednesday.
“This decision moves Dakota Access another step closer to beginning construction on an underground pipeline to transport domestically produced light sweet crude oil out of production areas in North Dakota to refining markets around the country,” the company stated.
Dakota Access has easement agreements for 81 percent of the land needed in Illinois, according to Dakota Access.
Illinois becomes the second of the four state approvals needed. South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission gave its OK in November. North Dakota has indicated a decision could come in January. The Iowa Utilities Board, which concluded its hearing phase of the case earlier this month, indicated a ruling may not come until February.
Dakota Access, which already has materials and contractors lined up, had been hoping to begin construction early in 2016 and have the pipe operational by the end of the year. Dakota Access filed a motion for the Iowa Utilities Board to speed up the decision-making process, but the board has said it would take the necessary time to review the material and make a ruling.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the state commissions of North Dakota and Iowa to achieve a similar outcome,” the Dakota Access statement said.
The 1,134-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline would pump up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day underground from the Bakken production region of North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a terminal in Patoka, Ill. From there, the oil would be shipped to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
It could free up four to seven trains per day depending on the number of cars per train, Dakota Access spokeswoman Vicki Granado said previously. Trains have been a primary means of moving oil from the oil fields to refinery, and high-profile accidents have prompted questions about whether pipelines would be a safer mode of transport.
Critics say the pipeline merely would allow Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, to move oil more quickly and thus make more money. Plus, critics challenge the pipeline is bad for the environment, farmland and shouldn’t require condemning private land to build.
The most vocal supporters of the project include union workers.
“The decision to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline will not only put laborers to work, but will help to expand the economies of cities and towns across the entire state,” according to a statement from the Laborers’ International Union of North America, noting it would “support the creation of thousands of family supporting jobs for Illinois’ construction workers.”