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 been granted. 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.

Organizations across the pipeline route have expressed interest in our efforts, including: Earthjustice, Dakota Rural Action, Honor the Earth, Iowa Private Property Rights Coalition, Bold Iowa, 350Kishwaukee and representatives of Sierra Club.

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