Dakota Access pipeline receives approvals from SD, Illinois

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | January 18, 2016

A $3.8 billion pipeline capable of carrying nearly half the Bakken’s daily production to tank farms in Illinois has received approval from regulatory agencies in South Dakota and Illinois and is expected to receive approval from the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) in January.

The 1,134-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline crosses North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois to connect the Bakken with the Patoka Hub in southern Illinois. From there, it ties in with the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline to the Sunoco Logistics terminal in Nederland, Texas. The 30-inch pipeline will initially transport 450,000 barrels of oil per day, but can be expanded to 570,000 barrels.

The pipeline is being constructed by Dakota Assess LLC, a partner with Texas-based Energy Transfer LP, one of the largest limited partnerships in the United States. It operates approximately 71,000 miles of natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs), refined products and crude oil pipelines.

In Iowa, where the Dakota Access pipeline met opposition from landowners, farm groups and environmental organizations, the Iowa Utilities Board concluded the public hearing process in December, but was not expected to make a decision until February.

However, Lisa Dillinger, Dakota Access spokesperson, says the company hopes for an earlier decision to maintain a construction schedule that would enable the pipeline and its related facilities to be ready for service by late 2016.

“We appreciate the IUB moving skillfully through the hearings that have now concluded,” she said. “We will do all that we can to support the IUB in its decision-making process to meet this timeframe.”

Near the end of 2015, Dakota Access had secured 77 percent of the voluntary easements needed in Iowa, compared to 85 percent in North Dakota, 91 percent in South Dakota and 83 percent in Illinois. Overall, the company had 83 percent of the total easements along the pipeline’s route.

In North Dakota Julie Fedorchak, Public Service Commission (PSC) chair, said the agency could make a decision on the Dakota Access project as early as Jan. 20 during its regularly scheduled meeting.

“Barring any unforeseen problems at this point, we hope that we can get this thing wrapped and taken care of within a month,” she said.

Fedorchak said there are two issues left to be resolved before the PSC can render a decision. The first involves shared working space between Dakota Access and the Enbridge Inc. Sandpiper pipeline project and which company will be responsible for reclamation on the right of way.

The other issue involves reports to the State Historic Preservation Office. Fedorchak said Dakota Access is required to provide reports on how the pipeline route will impact historic sites and what mitigation measures it will use.

“That’s a pretty important piece of the siting process because one of our main reviews is on cultural impacts,” she explained. “I’m hopeful that all that is going to be taken care of.”

In December, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a permit for the Dakota Access pipeline on a 2 to 1 vote. PUC Chairman Chris Nelson introduced more than 50 conditions he says were intended to protect the land and landowners during the construction and operation of the pipeline. All but one of the conditions were unanimously approved by the commission.

“If this pipeline is constructed, it is imperative and non-negotiable that construction and reclamation be conducted in a manner that allows farmers and ranchers impacted by the pipeline to very quickly get back to their business of producing food for the world in a manner uninhibited by the pipeline,” says Nelson.

Commissioner Gary Hanson opposed the approval, saying Dakota Access had not selected a route that prevented the pipeline from interfering with development in the Sioux Falls area and surrounding communities. In addition, he said Dakota Access was not a good corporate citizen because it sued some landowners before it had a permit to build the pipeline. He suggested that the company apologize to those landowners and reimburse them for legal expenses.

“I don’t want to stop Dakota Access from eventually getting its permit,” said Hanson. “I simply want it done right.”

Acting commissioner Rich Sattgast, South Dakota state treasurer, cast the deciding vote in favor of granting a permit to Dakota Access, saying he believed the company will be a good steward and that it has met the burden required for permit approval.

Sattgast and Nelson agreed that the silence from most government entities along the pipeline’s route indicated that they had no problem with its location. Nelson noted that Dakota Access had made changes to the route when the city of Sioux Falls and Lincoln County voiced concerns. 

Nelson said the decision to approve the Dakota Access pipeline wasn’t based on “whims of PUC, but based on complying with all applicable laws.” In his view, the pipeline doesn’t pose a risk to or substantially impair health and safety, and that it won’t interfere with development along the route.

“Dakota Access has demonstrated that they have a legal right to have the permit issued to them,” said Nelson.