Oil pipeline builder seeks eminent domain: Bloomington IL Pantagraph, 8/20/07

By Scott Miller

A Canadian crude-oil transporter requested eminent domain to construct a pipeline through McLean, Livingston and DeWitt counties, and landowners intend to fight.

In its application filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission late last week, Enbridge Inc. said it plans to first negotiate with landowners and that the eminent domain power is “sought only in the interest of efficiency … to meet public need for crude petroleum.”

The application for a certificate of good standing, which allows for eminent domain, is just the first step in the regulatory process, said Enbridge spokesman Joe Martucci.

“We have to demonstrate with the ICC that we have negotiated in good faith with landowners before they’ll even consider (eminent domain),” he said.

Negotiations won’t begin until next month, Martucci said. The project affects about 95 landowners in McLean County, 68 in Livingston County and 65 in DeWitt County.

A bloc of eastern McLean County landowners, meanwhile, plans to fight the company’s request with the ICC. They hired Bloomington estate attorney Mercer Turner to represent their interests, said landowner Margaret Clement.

Clement and family members organized the group Family Farmers Wanting Responsibly Planned Pipelines. Around 60 people joined their group, Clement said. They fear an oil spill and want to make sure the company maintains the fertility of farmland during and after construction.

Turner was unavailable Monday.

Interested parties have about three months to submit testimony to the ICC on this matter, said ICC engineer Eric Lounsberry, speaking during a landowners’ meeting on the issue in July. The ICC will then have a formal hearing where parties can cross examine witnesses.

The ICC will also have a public hearing, said spokeswoman Beth Bosch. At this point, no hearings are scheduled, and Bosch said the ICC proceedings could last a year.

All documents filed in the case are accessible at www.icc.illinois.gov/e-docket. The case number is 07-0446.

Enbridge wants to construct a 170-mile pipeline east of Bloomington-Normal from Pontiac to Patoka. The line would funnel about 400,000 barrels of Canadian crude daily to refineries throughout the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Construction is slated to start in 2008, with the pipeline transporting crude in 2009.

To receive eminent domain powers, Enbridge must convince the ICC there is a public need for more crude oil. In its application, Enbridge said the pipeline can reduce reliance on politically volatile Middle East imports coming into the Gulf Coast. Canadian crude, Enbridge added, is not vulnerable to the hurricane disruptions that caused supplies to dwindle and prices to skyrocket following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Earlier this year, the ICC granted Enbridge eminent domain rights for a similar project in northern Illinois.

Bloomington IL Pantagraph: http://www.pantagraph.com