ST. LOUIS — The future of Spire’s natural gas pipeline – and the hundreds of thousands of St. Louis area residents it serves – will be on the agenda next week for federal regulators to discuss.
Officials confirmed Thursday afternoon that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has added the STL Pipeline to its meeting agenda for Thursday, Nov. 18.
Spire Missouri President Scott Carter and the Environmental Defense Fund’s Natalie Karas both separately said they’re hopeful the commission will act on the agenda item and extend a permit to continue using the pipeline after Dec. 13.
Right now, the pipeline is only operating on a temporary permit that expires Dec. 13, which is why the company said it had to send out an email telling customers they could lose service if that permit isn't extended.
“We don’t want to alarm customers, but we want to be transparent with everyone about the energy they rely on,” Carter wrote in the email. “Customers need to know that without the STL Pipeline in service during winter weather, the possibility of service disruptions and outages throughout the St. Louis area is very real.”
The email prompted a pair of news conferences Thursday afternoon. Karas, St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia and St. Louis County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy planned a 2 p.m. news conference to go over the pipeline latest. Then, Spire announced a 1:30 p.m. news conference to discuss updates.
Carter emphasized Spire has contingency plans in place, which they will share in an update with the Missouri Public Services Commission. He added that the email to customers was meant to show they’re doing everything they can to make sure people are aware of the situation and that Spire is working on back-up plans.
“The idea was never to raise concern rather than inform,” Carter said.
Clancy, Ingrassia, and Karas accused Spire of unnecessarily using fear tactics on customers. The two elected leaders said they’ve heard from constituents who are concerned about their heat source being turned off in the middle of a St. Louis winter.
“What they did completely overstepped the line,” said Ingrassia. “It was extremely reckless the manner in which they outlined what their concerns were. They even admitted themselves that they expect FERC to extend the permit through the winter.”
“That email stoked unnecessary fear from community members who are already anxious during the continued COVID public health emergency, especially as we head into the winter months,” Clancy added.
She continued to say Spire officials did nothing to put customers at ease when they appeared before St. Louis County Council Tuesday night.
FERC, Spire, and the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) are all tied up in court over whether this pipeline should have ever been approved in the first place.
The environmental group questions whether the pipeline was really necessary or if customers are just paying more so Spire can make more money and takes issue with how EDF said the pipeline cuts through farmland.
But even the environmental group said the pipeline should be allowed to operate through the winter so that no one will lose service.
A three-judge panel with the US Court of Appeals voted to shut down production, but FERC granted emergency authorization to keep production pumping until Dec. 13.
After that date, without an extension, upwards of 400,000 homes and businesses could be left without a reliable heat source this winter.