Energy & Utilities
The Attorneys at Spesia & Ayers have a wealth of experience assisting energy and utility companies face the multitude of complex legal issues that arise in their day to day business. The firm’s clients include Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership, Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, L.L.C., Kinder Morgan, Enterprise Products Partners, L.P., Aqua Illinois, Inc., Alliance Pipeline Company, Aux Sable Liquid Products, and J.U.L.I.E.
Spesia & Ayers are ready to provide legal support to utility, pipeline and energy companies during virtually every stage of a major construction project from start to finish. Our attorneys have extensive experience drafting easements, options, deeds and other acquisition documents. We possess the skill and expertise to resolve the complex title issues that commonly arise in land acquisition efforts. The firm also provides legal counsel to energy and utility companies concerning their rights when securing local government permits and can help limit fees to those allowed by Illinois law. Use Spesia and Ayers’ broad project experience, which includes assisting public utilities, municipalities and major natural gas and crude oil pipeline companies, to assist you in your next major project.
Beyond representing clients in litigation, our attorneys possess real-world project experience that gives critical insight to our clients’ needs. For example, prior to attending law school partner John Spesia worked as a right-of-way agent for Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America and Kinder Morgan, Inc. His real-world experience and understanding of energy and utility acquisition efforts gives our team of lawyers a unique advantage in understanding the concerns and goals of the firm’s energy clients who are involved in construction projects.
Our “eminent domain” page explains our experience assisting utility and energy companies from the negotiating phase of a project through trial and appeals – including strategies to secure access to properties to ensure that construction can begin, even while an eminent domain case is still pending.
Operations and Dealings with Governmental Entities
When dealing with local governmental entities and organizations, you can rely on the experienced attorneys at Spesia & Ayers for assistance. Partner Chris Spesia and his team of lawyers at the firm have many years of experience dealing with local land use, zoning, and road use matters, and have assisted energy clients as they navigate the process of obtaining the permits they need to acquire, construct, and operate their facilities. Attorneys from Spesia & Ayers have negotiated with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, counties, municipalities, townships, and individual landowners to ensure that the firm’s clients secure the permits and rights they need to construct new utility and energy delivery systems, expand existing systems, and to perform any necessary maintenance work. Notably, this experience includes the handling of disputed road damage claims. Spesia & Ayers prevailed in the arbitration of a $2.6 Million road damage claim by multiple Township Highway Commissioners with the result being a final resolution of $365,000 in damages in exchange for complete releases signed by the Townships.
When negotiating efforts fail, our attorneys are seasoned litigators who have succeeded in prosecuting injunctions to prohibit and remedy unwarranted easement encroachments and recover damages when facilities are damaged by third-party negligence. In one instance, our firm secured a $250,000 settlement on behalf of a pipeline company client in a case where landowner negligence caused a crude oil pipeline to rupture.
In another case, partner Chris Spesia successfully obtained a permanent injunction against a Township Highway Commissioner who attempted to block access to a propane loading facility by drastically reducing the weight limit of the facility’s access road. Both the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Aux Sable Liquid Products v. Murphy, 526 F.3d 1028 (7th Cir. 2008), found in favor of the Firm’s client on the basis that Federal law preempts local municipalities from regulating trucks involved in interstate commerce.
Other representative cases include the successful prosecution of a claim for breach of contract against an Illinois municipality that failed to pay sewer tap-on fees to one of the Firm’s public utility clients, as well as the successful defense and dismissal of multiple claims by real-estate developers that sought to force a public sewer utility to provide service in a rapidly-developing area.
Defense of Injury Claims
Our firm was instrumental in drafting the original Illinois “one-call” statute and partner Jeff Taylor serves as the general counsel for J.U.L.I.E. Mr. Taylor and John Spesia head up our litigation team and have extensive experience defending negligence claims arising out of utility construction and maintenance. Attorneys from Spesia & Ayers have successfully defended cases where workers and third-parties have been injured in connection with the construction and operation of utility and energy systems. In one such case, Spesia & Ayers attorneys successfully defended $2.8 million in claims arising out of workers injured while performing routine pipeline maintenance; negotiating settlements amounting to less than $700,000 in total. Our attorneys are skilled trial lawyers and negotiators who have the experience necessary to provide effective and efficient defense in cases involving all types of construction negligence and Section 414 “control” liability.
Public Utility Representation – Illinois Agencies
Our Firm has represented an Illinois public utility company in multiple proceedings before the Illinois Commerce Commission (“ICC”), causing that body to approve of acquisitions of private and public sewer and water systems, and defending against customer complaints. This work has included representation of the client in the closing transactions for multiple sewer and water systems, and in particular a water system that serves more than 44,000 residents. The Firm has also handled proceedings before the Illinois Department of Resources to obtain a Lake Michigan water allocation permit for a public utility.
Zoning and Land Use
In representing our energy and utility clients for the siting of new facilities or the expansion of existing facilities, the lawyers at Spesia & Ayers are well-versed in the law surrounding both federal and state preemption of local zoning and building standards. This knowledge and expertise often results in the governmental entity acknowledging that no local permits are required. When clients decide to participate in local zoning and permitting proceedings, the attorneys at Spesia & Ayers are ready to assist, bringing a wealth of experience in zoning and permitting procedures to secure zoning approvals and building permits in multiple jurisdictions. Chris Spesia and the zoning group at Spesia & Ayers have worked with energy clients to obtain any and all necessary zoning and building permits for metering and pumping facilities in Will, Livingston, LaSalle, Bureau and Boone Counties. They have also negotiated lease terms and obtained municipal approval for crude oil tank and barge loading facilities, and have negotiated annexation agreements with local governments that allow the construction of energy facilities.