Doubling down on DAPL: the contentious politics of pipeline governance in Illinois

Anna G. Sveinsdóttir, McKenzie F. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyzes the permitting proceeding for the capacity expansion of the Dakota Access and Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipelines in Illinois. Drawing on field research undertaken between 2018–2021, we examine how a grassroots-led coalition of climate activists–Save Our Illinois Land (SOIL)–navigated the Illinois Commerce Commission’s institutional context to oppose regulatory approval. We argue that SOIL mobilized procedural aspects of the regulatory process to politicize a highly path-dependent and techno-managerial administrative proceeding. SOIL did so to open political space for greater consideration of and deliberation around socio-ecological challenges like climate change in pipeline governance. While U.S. focused, our findings highlight the difficulties inherent to employing institutionalized participation as a mechanism to politicize energy governance and engage in contentious energy politics. Climate advocates face complex challenges that inhibit their ability to unsettle the power structures that reinforce carbon-intensive systems and promote inclusive and climate-driven energy infrastructure governance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-882
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023


  • Dakota Access Pipeline
  • Environmental politics
  • Illinois
  • climate change
  • energy infrastructure governance
  • politicization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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