Illinois Commerce Commission
The Illinois Commerce Commission touches the lives of nearly every Illinois resident through its regulation of electricity, natural gas, water, waste water, telecommunications, and intrastate pipelines. When a new entrant seeks to attain public utility status, an entity seeks to build new utility lines, a business wants to become an alternative energy supplier, an underground utility facility is damaged, or a customer files a complaint about public utility services or charges, these issues are resolved before the Illinois Commerce Commission. These administrative proceedings are significantly different from more common legal proceedings in a court. They require special knowledge of the Rules of Practice before the Commission, knowledge of the Public Utilities Act, Electric Supplier Act, Underground Utility Facilities Damage Prevention Act, and other statutes, regulations, and case law precedent. We have many years of experience practicing at the Illinois Commerce Commission, which includes areas traditionally regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission such as 9-1-1 emergency telephone matters.
When a pipeline, power line, transmission line, or other infrastructure project is being built, the company usually must negotiate easements with landowners. Shay Law, Ltd. regularly assists in negotiating easements for transmission lines, pipelines, wind farms, and large solar power projects.
When utilities cannot obtain land by easement, they may seek to condemn property. Depending on the situation, this may involve proceedings at the Illinois Commerce Commission. It will always involve a court proceeding. We are experienced in practicing before both bodies with regards to eminent domain issues.
Wind and Solar Farm Development
Wind and solar farm development raise many legal issues that may not be familiar to many attorneys. Long term leases and easements, costs of deconstruction, property tax treatment, local county boards and ordinances, and other aspects make this area of practice one with many unique challenges. The attorneys at Shay Law, Ltd. are experienced navigating these issues and others that might arise.
Utility Bill Disputes
Sometimes there are disputes about utility bills. These disputes usually require resolution at the Illinois Commerce Commission. Our firm has the experience to efficiently handle these disputes.
Other Energy Matters
The energy world is changing. The proliferation of rooftop solar, electric energy storage, and distributed generation is changing the utility and energy landscape. Community solar, municipal owned utility renewable projects, and large scale solar are all becoming more common. Biomass gas generation and biofuels continue to grow. Shay Law, Ltd. is experienced and positioned to assist clients to navigate through this constantly altering landscape. Our attorneys include former Administrative Law Judges, former utility general counsel, and experienced corporate attorneys
Shay Law, Ltd.'s Utility & Energy Success
While we cannot guaranty similar results in a particular case, Shay Law, Ltd. is proud that we regularly obtain favorable results for our clients. Some recent examples include:
In the Rock Island Clean Line case, we represented over 300 landowners with interests in over 100,000 acres from the Mississippi River to Grundy County, Illinois. At the Commerce Commission level, we successfully persuaded, along with other Rock Island opponents, the Commission to deny Rock Island’s requested Section 8-503 authority. We appealed the Commission's decision that Rock Island was a public utility to the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District. There we successfully persuaded the Appellate Court to reject the finding that Rock Island is a public utility. The opinion can be found here. The Appellate Court determined that because Rock Island's failure to own any utility assets within the State of Illinois and its planned sales of capacity on the transmission line to a limited group of eligible users, not the public, each rendered it a non-utility. As such, the Commerce Commission erred and should not have authorized the construction of the project. Rock Island, the Commerce Commission, and others appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Firm actively participated in briefing and oral argument on behalf of our landowner clients. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed the Appellate Court decision, holding that Rock Island did not meet the requirements of a “public utility” under the Ill. Public Utilities Act.
In the Ameren Spoon River transmission line case, we represented approximately a dozen landowners spread along Ameren’s preferred route. We successfully persuaded the Commission to use a wholly different route – the alternate route with our proposed adjustment. We were successful despite opposition from Ameren, an opposing landowner group, and Commerce Commission Staff, all of whom advocated for Ameren’s preferred route. Large-scale reroutes in the face of such opposition are rare, and we are pleased to have secured such extraordinary results for our clients. We are now negotiating easements for other clients affected by the transmission line.
In the ComEd Grand Prairie Gateway transmission line case, we represented a few historic property owners near a railroad. Their neighbors wanted to re-route the transmission line along our clients’ properties. We successfully persuaded the Illinois Commerce Commission from allowing that routing and thereby protected our clients’ interests.
We represented a landowner in an easement dispute regarding the Pilot Hill wind farm in Iroquois County, Illinois. Because of our negotiations regarding the alleged failure of the developer to timely exercise its rights, we were able to secure more favorable revised easement terms for our client. The revised easement agreement which we negotiated resulted in less impact to the client’s land and greater compensation to our client.
We represented landowners in both federal and state court when Enbridge Pipeline attempted to take their land by eminent domain or declaratory action based on old existing easements. Through our vigorous litigation and negotiations with Enbridge, we secured favorable settlement terms for our clients. Additionally, we represented a few other landowners in easement negotiations with Enbridge, ensuring their Enbridge affected their farmland as little as possible and achieving just compensation for them.
In the Ameren Illinois Rivers transmission line project series of cases, we represented several interested parties, including a landowner who wanted to relocate the high voltage transmission line from his 30+ acres of land and timber. We successfully persuaded the Commerce Commission to order a rerouting of the line away from our client’s property. We also represented two landowners in persuading the Commission to endorse a route that moved the line away from their properties
We also have represented over a dozen landowners in easement negotiations with Ameren for its Illinois Rivers transmission line project. We were able to secure the landowners increased compensation and more favorable easement terms. Moreover, we were able to extricate at least one group of landowners from eminent domain proceedings at the Commerce Commission, allowing good-faith negotiations to continue without the imminent threat of condemnation. Ameren sued another group of our landowner clients in circuit court, seeking to condemn their land. We secured through negotiations favorable easement terms and compensation for our clients, thereby achieving favorable results and avoiding costly and lengthy litigation with an uncertain outcome.
We represented another large group of rural landowners in successfully keeping an Ameren transmission line in LaSalle County routed away from their lands, both persuading Ameren from initially proposing such a route and then, in the Commission proceeding, staving off proposals from others to move the line’s routing across and along our clients’ lands.