Landowners: Spire Pipeline Committed Millions of Dollars In Damages

By Benjamin Cox on September 28, 2020 at 1:16pm

Ridge lines and silt fencing left along the creek hollow of Ken Davis' property in rural Scott County. The topography of the land has been completely changed by Spire's pipeline, according to Davis.

The Spire STL Pipeline Company disagreed with findings by the Illinois Department of Agriculture earlier this month about their pipeline running through Greene, Scott, and Jersey County. Spire says that they have followed through on an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement made with landowners and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the start of the project. Spire General Counsel Sean Jameison told WLDS News on September 10th that revegetation had returned even better than before.

A local landowner on the right-of-way and 13th District Congressman Rodney Davis say that isn’t the case.

Local landowner Kenny Davis owns property south of Alsey in southern Scott County along the project’s right-of-way. He says that Spire had originally agreed to go along one side of his property, but cut his parcel in half instead with little notice when they went to construct the pipeline: “They told me that I was going to be surprised with what they offered me [for the easement]. They said I was going to be pleased. Their first initial placing of the pipeline was going to go down on the east side of my property, and that’s where they started their surveys. Then, as it went along, they said they were going to go down the middle of my property. I told them not to go down the middle, but down the east side like they had originally told me. They continued to survey and work on the east side and told me not to worry about it. When I would not sign the easement agreement, they went ahead and went right down the middle of me. They that they got the courts to give them rights to come on my property, they called me on Monday beforehand and they said they were going to be on my property cutting down my trees Thursday. I hadn’t made any arrangements with any loggers to come in and cut down the trees because I believed they were still going down the east side. Russ Wilson, the director of the pipeline, called me and said they were going down the center and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. They also said they weren’t going to give me any of my timber either.”

Davis says that Spire did not provide him the opportunity to cut the wood on his property and log it, which he uses for a wood-burning stove, cooking, and other means at his home in Winchester. Davis said they used the threat as leverage to get him to sign an easement agreement, which he still refused to do: “They went in there and totally destroyed my property. There was nothing I could do about it. I use the property to deer hunt, and now I have no coverage because they split my timber in two. The deer can see me getting in and out because of the big space left in the middle by the pipeline. I got Diamond Land Associates. They are the ones representing me [in a lawsuit against Spire]. We filed all kinds of complaints. We filed all kinds of out-of-compliance reports. It didn’t do any good. FERC didn’t do anything. FERC didn’t do their job. I was left with nobody to help me. I was helpless. They trespassed outside my easement. They had dirt and sludge from heavy rains going outside the easement. They had mud everywhere with their machinery. They were supposed to keep everything inside the easement.”

A sample of some of the corn produced within the pipeline’s right of way on Ken Davis’ property taken on September 18th.

Davis says that the heavy rainfall during the construction of the pipeline and the total disregard to EPA and the Department of Agriculture’s regulations resulted in the complete reshaping of the topography of Davis’ land, causing standing water and flooding during heavy rains. Davis’s land sets on a timber-covered ravine surrounding a small creek. Davis says that the heavy rains have caused the banks to erode along the creek, causing him to have to take out even more trees and effecting yields on small patches of his land that are tillable. Davis says he presented video evidence of the flooding problem to IDoA, the EPA, and regulators, which he said never occurred prior to the pipeline’s construction: “[Spire] never has put any silt fences up. They never put anything up when they started. They didn’t segregate the topsoil from the subsoil. They just went in there. They took bulldozers and track machines, large cutting machines, a large chipper in there that was extremely tall and it just mudded up the ground. They were getting stuck. They used the top hill of my property as a parking lot. I put in a complaint in about it when they took all the topsoil off the ground. It was already mixed by that time. They had already destroyed it.”

Screenshot of Spire workers doing digging during heavy rains in a video Davis took while on his property during the construction of the pipeline.

Davis says that he had future plans to put a residence on the property and live in retirement. Davis’ original intention was to build a home for he and his wife on the property in the next few years where he could continue to deer hunt. He paid to have rural water connected two years ago, and says that the ground is not even decent farm ground now, because the soil has destroyed crop yields. Davis says he just wanted to be treated fairly by the group, and given a fair price. Davis commends the EPA for taking samples on his ground and bringing the issues back before FERC.

Congressman Rodney Davis says he’s seen the evidence that Ken Davis has spoken of with several other landowners along the easement and believes that FERC will issue an appropriate ruling to satisfy the parties: “I thought that the report that was laid out by the Illinois Department of Agriculture was well done. I’ve got to commend the director, Jerry Costello, for allowing his team to listen to the landowners and lay out a very good reason why FERC ought to rule to send Spire back to those communities and fix what they haven’t fixed. I want FERC to do their job now. They’ve gone through the steps. They are supposed to be the neutral arbiter, and I think the evidence is pretty clear when you look at some of the pictures in the Department of Agriculture report that Spire didn’t do their job reclaiming that land. They didn’t do their job fulfilling their promise of reclamation. I’ve had numerous pipelines go through my district in the past 7 1/2 years, and Spire is the only company who has been accused of not properly reclaiming the land like they had promised to do. That’s just being bad neighbors. It’s wrong and I’m glad that FERC is going to be able to be the arbiter now.”

Video analysis provided by Central Land Consulting. The photo was submitted as a portion of IDoA’s report to FERC of some of the violations committed during construction of the pipeline.

Central Land Consulting, an Oklahoma-based Soil Scientist, and Agronomist have evaluated and sampled eight properties in Illinois, spanning each county that the Spire project affects. In information released to WLDS, CLC corroborates the findings of the Illinois EPA and the Department of Agriculture. CLC estimates that the cost to cure per IDoA and FERC requirements are $14.5 million, not mentioning several tracts of land that aren’t in condemnation, but overall for the tracts in Illinois the cost is expected around $20.5 million in damages. According to NRCS Soil Survey Data, most areas evaluated within Spire’s easement of work found that 50-90% of pre-construction topsoil depth is gone. Greene County land value, according to Acre, comes in at a value over $6,400 per acre, with Scott County right at $6,500 per acre.