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Government, Politics & Issues

Spire files appeal to U.S. Supreme Court in pipeline dispute

Spire Missouri President Scott Carter discusses the fate of the Spire STL Pipeline at a press conference in November 2021.
Screenshot via Facebook
Spire Missouri President Scott Carter discusses the fate of the Spire STL Pipeline at a press conference in November 2021. The pipeline company appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to overturn an appeals court ruling striking down its authorization to operate

Spire STL Pipeline appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to overturn a lower-court ruling that outlined evidence of self-dealing in its construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline in the St. Louis area.

The pipeline has been in operation since 2019. But this summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down its federal authorization under a challenge from the Environmental Defense Fund.

It is currently operating under a temporary certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which expires Dec. 13. Commissioners appear poised to extend that through the winter to ensure St. Louis area residents have reliable gas service during the cold months.

Spire also asked the court to recall the mandate that struck down the pipeline’s authorization.

“Customers who rely on the Spire STL Pipeline need assurance that this critical infrastructure will continue to deliver a reliable and affordable energy supply,” Spire STL Pipeline president Scott Smith said in a statement.

He added: “At Spire we’re here to keep people safe and warm. Our focus remains on ensuring that the greater St. Louis region has access to reliable, affordable energy this winter through the continued operation of the Spire STL Pipeline.”

The Spire STL Pipeline runs 65 miles from Illinois into Missouri, and Spire Missouri says it makes service more reliable by diversifying the sources the utility uses to get its gas.

The pipeline company first announced its intent to build in 2016 and invited natural gas “shippers” to enter contracts for the gas the pipeline would transport. None committed, according to the order from the appeals court.

Under the Natural Gas Act, for federal regulators to issue a certificate for a company to construct and operate an interstate pipeline, it must find that the pipeline “is or will be required by the present or future public convenience and necessity.”

Spire STL and Spire Missouri, which are affiliates, entered a contract for 87.5% of the pipeline’s capacity, which the court said in its June 2021 order was “plausible evidence of self-dealing.”

Federal regulators, according to the order, ignored this when they granted Spire approval in 2018 and denied a request from the nonprofit law firm Environmental Defense Fund for a rehearing.

The nonprofit has, among its members, St. Louis area landowners who lost property to the pipeline. It appealed FERC’s approval in January 2020, saying the agency had not rigorously studied the need for the pipeline. The U.S. Court of Appeals this summer sided with EDF and vacated FERC’s approval and sent the pipeline back to the agency for further review.

Spire previously requested that the Supreme Court issue a stay of that appeals court order and was denied.

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence.

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