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Spire warns of possible gas shortages after court ruling on pipeline

Spire submitted a request for a key regulator to issue an emergency certificate allowing the pipeline to temporarily keep carrying natural gas to the area
Credit: avirid - stock.adobe.com

ST. LOUIS — Natural gas utility Spire Inc. (NYSE: SR) on Tuesday warned that a court ruling vacating approval of one of its pipelines could lead to its removal from service, and subsequent gas shortages in the St. Louis region this winter. The company said it submitted a request Monday for a key regulator to issue an emergency certificate allowing the pipeline to temporarily keep carrying natural gas to the area.

Sean Jamieson, Spire's general counsel, said the company wants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "to completely take off the table the idea that residents could be without gas this coming winter."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in June vacated FERC's approval of the 66-mile STL Pipeline, finding that the agency did not sufficiently analyze whether it was needed. The pipeline was completed in 2019, and connects with the Rockies Express Pipeline in Scott County, Illinois.

The ruling sent the case back to FERC for further analysis. The nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund initiated the case in January 2020, arguing that FERC failed to perform its statutory duties, leading to harm for residents whose land is in the pathway of the pipeline and ratepayers who pay for it.

Jamieson said if the emergency authorization isn't granted by FERC, the pipeline could be forced to shut as early as Aug. 13. He said that date depends, in part, on whether the appeals court grants a request for rehearing.

If the pipeline is taken out of service, Spire projects that thousands of St. Louisans could lose natural gas service this winter.

Jamieson said the company calculates that if temperatures reach 9 degrees Fahrenheit, 175,000 customers in the region could lose service. If Spire's underground storage reserves are depleted, the temperature need only dip to 38 degrees Fahrenheit for the number of affected customers to climb to 400,000, he said.

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