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The politics of energy infrastructure development in the United States: The Dakota Access Pipeline in Illinois

Authors: Anna G. Sveinsdottir*, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, McKenzie Johnson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , Emily Guske, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Natural Resources, Legal Geography
Keywords: Energy infrastructure, pipelines, oil and gas, public participation, environmental governance, Illinois
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper analyzes public participation in the permitting of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Illinois. Scholarship assumes that the lack of visible opposition to DAPL in Illinois reflects the relatively greater social power of predominately white stakeholders to participate in and influence environmental decision-making processes. Drawing on research conducted in 2018-2019, we find that many Illinois stakeholders – mostly rural landowners and farmers - opposed DAPL but their ability to access or impact decision-making processes was limited. Specifically, participatory mechanisms within state institutions, which give the appearance of inclusivity, offered few opportunities to impact outcomes. Effectively, DAPL was unstoppable in Illinois and our findings reinforce claims of injustice emerging from Standing Rock. We question, however, whether greater ‘participation’ within existing institutional arrangements of consensual “good” techno-managerial governance, which include all opinions as long as they don’t question fundamentally the existing state of affairs, can reduce inequities.

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