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Illinois becomes second state to approve Dakota Access Pipeline

Illinois has become the second state to approve a controversial interstate crude oil pipeline that is proposed to run from North Dakota to Illinois.

Spokesman Bob Gough confirmed the Illinois Commerce Commission voted 5-0 Wednesday to approve a permit for that state’s 177-mile segment of the pipeline.

Dakota Access LLC, the Texas-based company proposing the $3.8 billion Bakken oil project, said in a statement it was pleased.

“This decision moves Dakota Access another step closer to beginning construction on an underground pipeline to transport domestically produced light sweet crude oil out of production areas in North Dakota to refining markets around the country,” it said.

Dakota Access has easement agreements for 81 percent of the land needed in Illinois, the company said.

South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission gave its approval in November. A decision in North Dakota is expected in January.

The Iowa Utilities Board, which concluded its hearing phase of the case earlier this month, indicated it might not rule until February.

Dakota Access, which already has materials and contractors lined up, had been hoping to begin construction early next year and have the pipe operational by year’s end. Dakota Access filed a motion for the IUB to speed up the decision-making process, but the IUB said it will take time to review the material and make a ruling.

The 1,134-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline would pump up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day underground from the Bakken production region of North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a terminal in Patoka, Ill. From there, the oil would be shipped to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

It could free up four to seven trains per day, depending on the number of cars per train, Dakota Access spokeswoman Vicki Granado has said. Trains have been a primary means of moving oil from the oil fields to refinery, and high-profile crashes have prompted questions about whether pipelines would be a safer mode of transport.

Critics say the pipeline merely would allow Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, to move oil more quickly and make more money. Critics also contend the pipeline could harm the environment and farmland, and that building the pipeline shouldn’t require condemning private land.

Union workers have been among the most vocal proponents of the pipeline.

“The decision to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline will not only put laborers to work, but will help to expand the economies of cities and towns across the entire state,” according to a statement from the Laborers’ International Union of North America.