Dakota Access Seeks to Double Pipeline Capacity
On June 14, 2019, Dakota Access filed a petition at the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) seeking authority to build new pumping facilities in three locations. Similar requests have been made in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.
The petition to the ICC only asks for permission to add or expand pumping stations to increase the capacity of the line. However, preliminary analysis indicates that a volume of 1.1 million bpd cannot be achieved using the existing 30-inch diameter pipeline, but will require installation of a parallel pipeline all the way from North Dakota to the Gulf if the full pumping capacity is to be utilized. This conclusion needs to be confirmed by experts.
The ICC originally set a hearing date for July 17, 2019, but it moved the hearing up to July 3. We think this was done at the request of the petitioners to hold the hearing before any opposition could get organized. If that had happened, they might have been able to say that the ICC should approve the request immediately as there was no opposition to it.
The request to add the new pumping stations does not require acquisition of additional land, so there is no question of requiring the use of eminent domain to seize land for the pumping stations against the will of a landowner. However, if an additional pipeline is to follow, it is possible that a new pipe cannot be installed in the current permanent easement. An additional permanent easement might be required and might require use of eminent domain for which ICC approval would be required. An additional temporary easement would be required, at least during construction. Permanent loss of productivity of the farmland is reported along the existing pipelines, and further damage would be done if an additional pipe is installed. Damage has been reported to drainage pipes along the construction route as well. Most importantly, the risk of a pipeline leak is highest where the pressure is highest, which is near the pumping stations. More pumping stations implies more risk of a spill. Every pipeline leaks eventually. The track record of Dakota Access and ETCO is not encouraging. DAPL had its first leak before it was fully operational, and within the first six months of operation, leaked five times.
The new pumping stations also will each use multiple electric motors with a combined power of 32,000 horsepower. Diesel generators will be installed at each pumping station to keep the pumps running in the event of a power failure. Diesel generators will contribute to particulate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
This request, if granted, has far-reaching consequences. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning the oil transported by this pipeline will double. This will contribute to greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere across the globe and further exacerbate the global climate emergency. Operation of the pipeline can be expected to go on for many years, locking the planet further into the use of fossil fuels. We must leave fossil fuels in the ground.
The pumping stations in normal operation will consume a very large amount of power. The amount of electric power required to run the new pumping stations for many years will initially come from the current mix of electrical sources, largely natural gas and coal. A large amount of greenhouse gasses and other co-pollutants will be produced, including particulates and coal ash from the coal-powered stations. The pumping stations will contribute to the base load. Base load is commonly used to justify continued operation of nuclear power stations and fossil fuel powered power plants. This would be a major setback in Illinois for the goal of decarbonizing the electric grid.
SOIL Intervenes in the ICC Process
Based on discussions with other concerned parties along the DAPL/ETCO route, intervening in the ICC process here in Illinois may be the best chance to stop this expansion. Save Our Illinois Land (SOIL) has retained an attorney, a former Administrative Law Judge with the ICC, and filed a Petition to Intervene in the approval process.
SOIL’s Petition to Intervene has not yet been granted and will likely be opposed by DAPL/ETCO. If granted SOIL will take advantage of the ICC discovery process to learn more about the plans for the pipeline – an important step in contesting this request.
Dakota Access and ETCO are clearly eager to expedite the ICC proceeding. They have agreed to provide responses to discovery questions in 14 days (half of the customary 28 days provided by ICC rules). Written direct testimony from ICC staff and intervenors like SOIL is due August 29. Another status hearing is set for September 4, at which a date for Dakota Access and ETCO to submit written rebuttal testimony will be set. Dakota Access and ETCO were insistent that a tentative date for an evidentiary hearing be set, which was scheduled for October 1 and 2, 2019 in Chicago.
Coordination with Other Organizations
On July 2 a conference call was held with representatives of Sierra Club National Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, Sierra Club staffers from North Dakota and Wisconsin, and representatives of SOIL. The goal was to update one another about how DAPL was approaching the regulators in the various states that the pipeline goes through, share what each of our organizations has done or is planning to do to oppose the expansion, and explore the benefits of working together.
A list of parties across the pipeline route that have expressed interest now includes: Earthjustice, Dakota Rural Action, Honor the Earth, Iowa Private Property Rights Coalition, Bold Iowa, 350Kishwaukee and representatives of Sierra Club.
Stop DOE from backing carbon-emitting projects
Representatives Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal have sponsored an amendment that keeps the Department of Energy from offering loan guarantees to any project that doesn’t avoid or mitigate carbon emissions. Please contact your House Rep and ask them to support the Omar-Jayapal Amendment – Amendment 105 in Rule II on HR 2740.
If you don’t know your representative’s phone number, you can find it here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative. Here are short and long sample scripts:
Short version: “I urge you to support the Omar-Jayapal amendment 105 in Rule 2 on HR 2740. We need more renewable energy, not more fossil fuels.”
Long version: “I’m a constituent and I’m calling to ask Representative [insert rep name here] to support the Omar-Jayapal amendment 105 in Rule 2 on HR 2740. We have little time to stop the worst of the climate crisis, and the federal government should not be giving handouts to the fossil fuel industry. We should be investing in clean energy, not fracking and plastics.”
Criminalizing pipeline resistance in Illinois
“Dangerous anti-protest legislation is working its way through state assemblies all across the U.S., chipping away at the right to protest and undermining social justice movements. State legislators have introduced nearly 100 bills curbing your right to protest since the resistance at Standing Rock began. And if oil and gas companies get their way, Illinois will now be added to the list.” (https://truthout.org/articles/alec-wants-to-make-protest-illegal-in-illinois/)
Illinois is just one of several states where model legislation written by the far-right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was introduced. HR1633 was passed by the House but failed in the Senate after several amendments to make it less extreme.
Thanks to everyone who called their legislators and submitted the 5000+ witness slips opposing the bill. But don’t let down your guard. This bill likely will be back in the fall session.
This bill received labor union support in Illinois. For insights into a new dynamic in passing this type of legislation, read on…
Unions and Conservatives
Rebecca Stoner, writing in the Pacific Standard, describes the split between labor and environmental groups—and how that might change. In “Why are Unions joining conservative groups to protect pipelines?” Stoner recaps the battle over Illinois House Bill 1633, which would criminalize peaceful protest at pipeline sites and other designated critical infrastructure sites, increase a misdemeanor to a felony, and impose penalties including fines of at least $1,000 and possible imprisonment.
The bill passed the Illinois House with bipartisan support. It was scheduled for committee hearings and postponed on several dates and was finally tabled. Per Stoner, “According to Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, its senate sponsor, Michael Hastings (D-19), plans to discuss elements of the bill with her organization, the AFL-CIO, and the Illinois Manufacturers Assoc over the summer, suggesting it may be reintroduced the next legislative session in a revised form.”
According to experts, the bill’s initial success in a Democratic state was due in part to union support. The AFL-CIO largely consists of construction trades unions, which supported the Keystone XL pipeline and object to “job-killing” efforts by ‘big greens.’ The AFL-CIO needs the financial support of the construction trades to continue. Other unions, including the National Nurses Association and SEIU, support the freedom to protest. (https://psmag.com/environment/why-are-unions-joining-conservative-groups-to-protect-pipelines)
Are you a construction trade union member? Do you know someone who is? The conflict between current jobs and future climate catastrophe is difficult to navigate. But if we don’t talk about it, we may not be able to create that finer future for our children.
Activists Call to Divest
On May 21, JPMorgan Chase Bank held its annual shareholder meeting in downtown Chicago. Activists disrupted the meeting and rallied outside the offices. Thank you to everyone who was there for the protest.
Take action to amplify the divestment movement:
- If you have control over your retirement funds, divest from fossil fuel companies. If you don’t, let your plan administrator know that you want fossil-free options.
- Is you bank a big lender to fossil fuel projects? See the Rainforest Action Network’s “Banking on Climate Change 2019” report. If so, tell your bank you want them to divest. Move your accounts to another financial institution.
- Determine if your city/town has funds invested in fossil fuels. Let your local officials know you object.
Banks across the globe are starting to take notice and action. Credit Agricole is the latest example of large financial institutions refusing to invest in fossil fuel projects. Sometimes called “la banque verte” due to its historical ties to farming, Credit Agricole is the world’s largest cooperative financial institution. It has adopted a worldwide ban on investments in coal projects and is applying this policy not only to its banking operations, but also to its asset management arm, which holds €1.8 trillion ($2,016,207,000,000 usd). (https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/coal/commercial-bank-credit-agricole-announces-new-no-coal-policy/69714590)
This is part of a growing movement to question the financial wisdom of investing in fossil fuel infrastructure projects due to the chance that their economic lifetimes will be short and they will become “stranded assets”. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/funds-say-climate-change-is-now-part-of-their-investing-equation-11560218940)
MN Line 3 updates
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has thrown out the state Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) approval of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project. It determined that the EIS didn’t adequately address the potential impact of a spill in the Lake Superior watershed. Redoing the EIS is a significant potential delay, given that other permits were granted by the PUC that rely on the EIS being adequate.
Everyone is still analyzing the ripple effects of this decision, but it is a critical decision that will push back the timeline into the fall and may impact other state and federal permits that are required for the project to move ahead. There are so many variables: Will Enbridge appeal the EIS decision to the MN Supreme Court? Will the MN supreme Court accept Enbridge’s appeal or reject it? Will the PUC say that the Certificate of Need and route decisions they approved will stand or, since they were given without an acceptable EIS, will they have to be applied for all over again? We know that 401 or 404 water permits cannot be issued now. Applications will be terminated and must be reapplied for once a revised EIS is accepted. Delay to start of construction could be considerable. (https://www.reuters.com/article/enbridge-inc-pipeline/aging-enbridge-oil-pipelines-face-setbacks-over-fears-of-great-lakes-spills-idUSL2N23E0L6)
Keep up to date on the fight to stop Line 3 from MN350.org.
Enbridge sues Michigan to keep Line 5 open
In the final days of 2018, outgoing Governor Snyder of Michigan and Republican legislators engineered an agreement with Enbridge to replace the aging Line 5 that runs under the Straits of Mackinac by building a tunnel and putting the Line 5 pipeline and other utilities that cross the Mackinac Straits into it. Incoming Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel oppose the last-minute deal. Negotiations with Enbridge were in process; however, they have broken down. AG Nessel has said that she will shut down Line 5 herself if agreement isn’t reached with Enbridge soon.
If Line 5 is shut down, downstream capacity from Superior is reduced. This will likely place greater emphasis on constructing the Line 61 ‘twin’/Line 66. (https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/05/29/nessel-vows-shut-line-5-unless-whitmer-gets-pact-junes-end/1268681001/)
Great Lakes Governors Letter supporting strong 401 Clean Water Act permit
Five Great Lakes governors wrote a letter this week to President Donald Trump’s administration opposing an executive order that eases energy regulations that also alters the Clean Water Act, making it easier to approve pipeline projects.
The governors wrote that it is their “duty to safeguard the Great Lakes and other waters within their boundaries. State authority to certify, revoke, or revise federal permits of discharges into waters of the United States per Section 401 is crucial to the Clean Water Act’s framework of cooperative federalism. This authority allows states to maintain state water quality with respect to activities associated with federally permitted discharges.” (https://www.michiganadvance.com/blog/whitmer-great-lakes-governors-oppose-trumps-water-order/)
If your governor signed on, please thank them. If they didn’t, ask them why not.
16 states’ Attorneys General take action
A coalition of state attorneys took aim at the Trump administration’s efforts to limit states’ ability to block Clean Water Act approvals for pipelines and other projects. (https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2019/05/28/stories/1060410671)
Food & Water Watch’s “Fracking Endgame” report provides a detailed analysis of the fracked natural gas infrastructure buildout by surveying the power, petrochemical and gas export industries collectively.
“What we see in this report is the industry blueprint for ensuring decades more of fossil fuel dominance over our society. If it becomes realized, the endgame would be a scary, dangerous world of omnipresent plastic waste, expanding air and water pollution, unacceptable health impacts and irreversible climate chaos,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. (https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fracking_endgame_platics_pollution_climate)