West Central IL Landowners Continue Fight with FERC Over Land Restoration Agreements with Spire STL Pipeline

By Benjamin Cox on August 22, 2022 at 9:18am

Photo of an actual corncob taken in September 2020 along the Spire STL Pipeline easement. Farmers say the pipeline has caused irreparable damage to their farmland.

Greene, Scott, and Jersey County landowners are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take a closer look at the Spire STL Pipeline once again.

Landowners have asked for a request to rehearing on FERC’s dismissal of a request to rehear the pipeline’s permit on July 21st.

On May 24th, an agent of FERC submitted a report after visiting the pipeline’s easement after the pipeline has had a noted history of non-compliance when it comes to environmental issues created by the pipeline’s construction, which were evidenced in reports provided by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois EPA within the last 3 years. The landowners insist that their has not been a timely restoration of their properties by the natural gas company and the FERC agent’s report has denied them that right.

Damaged farmground in southern Greene County along the pipeline’s easement in Fall 2021.

Nate Laps of Central Land Consulting LLC who represents a large group of the landowners in the 3 counties, says the land issues are numerous: “The majority of the area that Spire has crossed are agricultural lands. Some are wooded areas, but they are mainly agricultural. The first thing they have damaged heavily are drain tiles. The landowners are identifying a lot of drain tiles that are either not connected at all where they previously had been connected across the easement or they are just settled or insufficient and not working. You are seeing a lot of flooding in those areas where the broken or unusable drain tiles are. The drain tiles are crucial in order for the farmers to get the highest yields and get production at the fullest. The other thing is there is a lot of debris, matting material, rocks, and compacted soils that are causing a lot of damage to farming machinery – especially combines. During harvest especially for soybeans, you are cutting a lot lower and these things cause a lot of damage to the cutter bars. It can get into the rotors. It does pretty extensive damage to some pretty high-end equipment that the farmers rely on. There is a lot of erosion. A lot of landowners are complaining about the mixing of top soil. The soils are severely compacted. These things have gone on for way too long and the landowners just want their properties restored.”

Legal counsel of the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Department of Agriculture are now involved in the issue asking for FERC to intervene. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth is also reviewing the case and has been asked to help with intervention on the landowners’ behalf.