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BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Commerce Commission has ruled Enbridge Pipelines can pursue eminent domain to get the remaining right-of-way it needs for a planned 167-mile pipeline from Flanagan to Patoka.

Enbridge wants to begin construction on the light crude oil pipeline this summer and have it operational by mid-2015, said Jennifer Smith, communication manager for Enbridge. 

But LeRoy attorney Tom Pliura, who represents about 100 landowners along the route, said Friday, "That's hogwash. We're going to be in court and challenging this thing.  It probably will go to the appellate court."

Pliura said the original project approved by the ICC was for a 36-inch pipeline that Enbridge officials maintained would bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of petroleum to the Midwest. The pipeline now has been downsized to 24 inches and Pliura maintains the crude oil will go to China.

"It's not going to benefit anybody, but the shareholders of Enbridge ... Exxon Mobile and China," he said. 

In addition, Pliura maintains the company will be busing in workers from Michigan to build the pipeline.

Pliura said he will be filing a motion asking the ICC to reconsider its decision. If it's denied, he said he will appeal to the appellate court. Pliura previously appealed ICC's decision giving Enbridge permission to build the pipeline. The 4th District Appellate Court upheld the ICC decision, 2-1, in December 2010.

Beth Bosch, ICC spokeswoman, said the commission's decision this week only allows Enbridge to pursue eminent domain; Enbridge will still need to go to court to obtain the property.

Smith said the company plans to continue negotiating for the remaining 120 parcels it needs, and at some point, landowners will get a letter about the court process.

The company originally announced the project — planned to go through parts of Livinston, McLean, DeWitt, Macon, Shelby, Christian, Fayette and Marion counties — in 2007 and said much of the right-of-way would be adjacent or in existing rights-of-way of the former Central Illinois Pipeline Co. Enbridge and Central Illinois Pipeline Co. merged in 2006.

The project was put on hold in 2009 because of poor economic conditions. According to the ICC "status of project" information, Enbridge maintains conditions have changed and that refiners such as Marathon, which has three refineries served from the Patoka hub, want to use the pipeline for "several hundred thousand barrels per day." For that to happen, Enbridge maintains the pipeline must be in service by 2015.

Meanwhile, the McLean County Highway Department will ask the County Board's Transportation Committee on Tuesday to approve a road use agreement with Enbridge for construction of the pipeline through McLean County. 

"This road use agreement helps protect the county's roads by defining weight limitations, time frame limitations, and routes to be used during the project," said County Engineer Eric Schmitt.

According to the pact, the county will receive $25,000 from Enbridge to cover administrative costs and overweight permits for the project.

Smith said the first step toward building the pipeline is to clear and prepare the right-of-way; then locate utilities; bring in the pipe; weld the pipe; then dig the trenches. Borers also will be used to take the pipe under railroad tracks. The pipeline could be operating before restoration work begins, she said. 

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