The controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) secured the final regulatory approval needed to build a pump station and expand others in Illinois, projects that should help it nearly double oil capacity.

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The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) this week approved Energy Transfer LP’s plan to build a pump station in Hancock County, IL, and expand other pumps already operating in Patoka, IL. The work would boost DAPL capacity to 1.1 million b/d from 570,000 b/d.

Owned and operated by Dallas-based Energy Transfer, the 30-inch diameter system stretches 1,172 miles, from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale to the midstream operator’s Crude Oil Co. pipeline in southern Illinois, which in turn flows to the Gulf Coast.

Regulators in other affected states previously approved the expansion.

Proponents applauded the ICC’s decision, including the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).

“Thank you to the Illinois Commerce Commission for setting politics aside and helping put our skilled trades in Illinois and across the Midwest to work by bringing much-needed American energy into our markets to help keep fuel prices down and make our nation more energy secure,” CEA’s Chris Ventura, Midwest director, said. 

“Our country needs to keep getting to yes on building our critical energy infrastructure and the commission’s decision is an important step toward meeting that goal.”

However, DAPL, long a lightning rod for environmentalists and Native American tribes living along its route, continues to face substantial hurdles.

The Standing Rock Sioux, whose land straddles the Dakotas, has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the project, warning of potential oil spills near the tribes’ reservation. The tribes also have concerns about increased greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit, which also now includes the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe as a second plaintiff, is ongoing and could imperil DAPL’s progress in coming months.

The plaintiffs argue that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DAPL did not account for a multitude of environmental risks in a challenge to its continued operation. Earlier this year, a federal judge ordered DAPL to suspend operations pending completion by the Army Corps of an environmental impact statement. That decision was subsequently partially overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (DC) Circuit. 

In September, lawyers in the case filed a proposed briefing schedule that sets a deadline for the plaintiffs to file a reply brief by Dec. 18. Analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC said this may mean Judge James Boasberg of the DC Circuit, who is overseeing the case, is unlikely to  issue a decision on whether to grant an injunction sought by the plaintiffs until after the November presidential election and potentially not until 2021.