Crude-oil pipeline project creates need for eminent domain: Bloomington IL Pantagraph, 10/1/07

By Scott Miller

LeRoy attorney and political activist Tom Pliura is recruiting clients to fight an eminent-domain request to build a crude-oil pipeline from Pontiac to Patoka in Southern Illinois.

Millions of dollars in payments to landowners hang in the outcome of Enbridge Inc.’s request for eminent domain, which would cripple peoples’ ability to negotiate, he said.

Eminent domain provides government authority to compel property owners to sell land at market value for public good.

“I’m having a hard time understanding how Canadian crude oil is going to benefit the farmers, the landowners and the citizens of Illinois,” Pliura told nearly 30 people who attended an informational meeting he organized Monday at the Interstate Center in Bloomington.

Enbridge spokesman Joe Martucci has repeatedly said eminent domain is a last option and that the request with the Illinois Commerce Commission is a matter of procedure.

Enbridge has filed a request with the ICC for a certificate of good standing, which would give the Canadian company eminent domain powers. The company wants to pump 400,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil daily to refiners throughout the Midwest.

Pliura, also a doctor who led a statewide strike at the state capitol in 2003 to protest rising medical-malpractice insurance costs, sent letters to 500 landowners along the 170-mile route of the proposed pipeline. In Central Illinois, the project affects about 95 landowners in McLean County, 68 in Livingston County and 65 in DeWitt County.

“We need to get as many people as possible to file an intervention to slow this down and stop it,” Pliura said.

He claims the project will proceed with or without eminent domain, just as a similar project proceeded in McHenry County a decade ago after the ICC denied such a request. Without eminent domain, though, Enbridge will be forced to pay more to landowners, Pliura said.

Preliminary ICC hearings begin Wednesday to discuss case schedules. The ICC has already granted Enbridge’s request for a pipeline in Northern Illinois, saying the project fills a public need for more crude oil.

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