NEW YORK, June 4 (Reuters) - Illinois regulators on Thursday unanimously rejected a request by environmental groups to delay a decision on Energy Transfer LP’s Dakota Access Pipeline expansion due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Save Our Illinois Land and Sierra Club, which oppose the expansion, told the Illinois Commerce Commission the oil price downturn caused by the pandemic lessened a need for the expansion, and that market data used to justify the project had become outdated.
The ICC still must rule on Energy Transfer’s application to increase capacity on its 570,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) crude oil pipeline by adding a series of pumping stations. The project has received approvals from several other U.S. states.
Measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus have cut global fuel demand as much as a third, knocking U.S. crude prices down nearly 40% since the start of the year and spurring widespread production cuts.
The environmental groups asked the commission to delay a final decision on the expansion application and order a hearing to introduce new evidence related to oil market conditions. They also cited a recently ordered federal environmental review of a segment of the pipeline.
Texas-based Energy Transfer countered that the pandemic’s impact on oil demand would be short-lived and not reduce the future need for the pumping facilities, which are expected to enter service in late 2021.
Flows on Energy Transfer’s pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois, likely will be increased to 750,000 bpd under the plan, a company executive told investors last month, lower than an initial proposal of roughly 1 million bpd.
Thursday’s ruling by the commerce commission, which will ultimately decide whether the project can move ahead in Illinois, upheld an earlier decision by an administrative law judge. (Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Tom Brown)