Hearings begin for Enbridge pipeline project

Adriana Colindres

Hearings got under way Tuesday on a company’s plan to build a nearly 200-mile crude-oil pipeline through Illinois — a project for which Enbridge Pipelines (Illinois) LLC wants to exercise eminent-domain powers if needed.

An administrative law judge with the Illinois Commerce Commission began accepting oral testimony from witnesses in the case, which involves the company’s application to the ICC for a “certificate in good standing and other relief.”

The hearings are expected to last for three days. The ICC will decide on the case sometime later.

The company, an offshoot of Canada-based Enbridge Inc., wants to build about 170 miles of pipeline that would go from Flanagan in Livingston County to Patoka in Marion County. Along the way, it would cut through McLean, DeWitt, Macon, Shelby, Christian and Fayette counties.

The project’s original estimated cost was $340 million, but construction costs have since increased, said Enbridge spokesman Joe Martucci.

Douglas Aller, an Enbridge employee who deals with land and right-of-way for the pipeline project, testified it could be “roadblocked” if the company cannot exercise eminent-domain powers to acquire easements needed for construction.

Some property owners have said they don’t want the pipeline built on their land, Aller said.

Martucci said eminent domain would be used only as a “last resort,” and that property owners would be able to use their land again once the pipeline got built. The company hopes the project is finished by late 2009.

Enbridge believes the project would be in the public interest, according to Martucci and documents that have been filed in the case. Canada is a more stable source of petroleum than many other foreign countries, the documents say.

The project is intended to secure a “reliable energy source for Illinois and the region,” Martucci said, adding that about 400,000 barrels of crude oil would go through the pipeline every day.

That’s not how Dr. Thomas Pliura of LeRoy sees it. Pliura, a physician and attorney, has joined forces with multiple landowners in opposing the project.

Pliura said there is a glut of Canadian petroleum and that the project would raise its price. The only ones to benefit from that scenario would be oil companies and refineries, he said.

“It’s not going to benefit Illinois,” Pliura said. “It’s not going to benefit Illinois citizens in the least.”

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or