Pipeline Company|Takes on Illinois Town

     PEORIA, Ill. (CN) – Enbridge Pipelines sued a little town in rural Illinois, claiming it’s “unreasonably hindering” construction of a 165-mile pipeline to carry tar sands oil to the endpoint of the original Keystone pipeline.
     Enbridge Pipelines, now known as Illinois Extension Pipeline Co., sued Old Town Township, McLean County, and the Old Town Highway Commissioner on Friday in Federal Court.
     Enbridge/IEPC wants to expand its network with an $800 million, 165-mile pipeline from the company’s Flanagan, Ill. oil terminal to a pipeline hub at Patoka. Ill.
     Patoka is the endpoint of the original Keystone pipeline, completed in 2010, which begins in the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and also carries tar sands oil from the Dakotas.
     The new pipeline will carry oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to refineries in the Midwest.
     An administrative law judge recommended that Enbridge/IEPC be granted easements across 127 parcels of land whose owners opposed the proposed 24-inch diameter pipe. The Illinois Commerce Commission approved the judge’s findings in 2013.
     Now the pipeline company claims Old Town Township, pop. 3,000, is “unreasonably hindering” the project. Old Town Township is just east of Bloomington, Ill.
     “IEPC has been forced to bring this action by defendants’ arbitrary, unreasonable and unexplained failure to grant permit applications, submitted well over one year ago, for the construction of road undercrossings, and related advance work, that are necessary for the ongoing construction of an $800 million interstate oil pipeline project,” the complaint states. “No basis exists for Old Town Township and its Highway Commissioner to withhold the requested permits, which are routinely granted for this type of pipeline project.”
     Enbridge/IEPC says other Illinois towns and highway commissioners have granted it permits, which are routine for this sort of work.
     “Defendants, in contrast, have taken no action on the permit applications, and has ignored IEPC’s repeated requests for action, all the while never raising any question or concerns regarding the substance of the permit applications,” the complaint states.
     An Enbridge pipeline burst five years ago, the largest inland U.S. oil spill ever, dumping as much as 1 million gallons of oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The pipe carried heavy crude from the tar sands of Canada, and cost $765 million to clean up.
     An Enbridge pipeline was also responsible for a 256,000 gallon spill near Romeoville, Ill. in 2010 that required the evacuation of 500 people from a suburban business park due to toxic fumes.
     Enbridge/IEPC says in its lawsuit that the pipeline is in the best interest of the people of Illinois, and that Old Town Township has no property rights to the land under the roadways which are subjects of the permit applications – and therefore, no right or reason to delay issuing permits.
     “By unreasonably hindering the completion of this pipeline project – which the Illinois Commerce Commission has approved and found is in the public interest – the defendants’ conduct also harms the public, because the pipeline project aims to ensure Illinois and other Midwest consumers with a dependable, secure, and economic supply of crude petroleum,” the complaint states.
     Enbridge/IEPC seeks damages for interference with interstate commerce, and a court order requiring the Highway Commissioner to issue the permits without further delay.
     It is represented by Gerald Ambrose with Sidley Austin.

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