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Spire Missouri warns of St. Louis winter gas outage, seeks extension of pipeline use

Spire Missouri is warning St. Louis-area customers that gas service outages may occur this winter if a federal commission doesn’t extend a deadline to stop operating a gas pipeline.

A judge ruled this year that in 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unlawfully approved the Spire STL Pipeline, which runs from Illinois to the St. Louis area. The commission has already extended its approval to let the 65-mile pipeline run through Dec. 13.

Spire officials said about 400,000 homes could be impacted by potential gas outages.

“Every legal and regulatory avenue has been explored to keep the pipeline in service this winter,” said Jason Merrill, a Spire spokesperson. “Given that there's all the support for the STL pipeline running through winter, we feel that FERC will extend this through the winter season, but there are no guarantees.”

Merrill said Spire has filed an application with the regulatory commission to extend its pipeline operations throughout the winter months. Business leaders and elected officials have voiced support for a temporary extension to keep people warm in coming months.

A map of Spire's proposed STL Pipeline project.
Spire Missouri is warning St. Louis-area customers that gas service outages may occur this winter if a federal commission doesn’t extend a Dec. 13 deadline to shut down a gas pipeline. The pipeline runs from Illinois to the St. Louis area.

Environmental organizations criticized Spire’s warning and said it could spark unnecessary fears.

The commission likely will extend the deadline, said Natalie Karas, senior director and lead counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund. The organization challenged the commission’s 2018 decision to allow the pipeline to operate.

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Spire had not demonstrated a need for the pipeline. The U.S. Supreme Court declined Spire’s request to take up the case in October.

"There's no indication that they will not extend the certificate going forward," Karas said. “We said FERC should act as necessary to ensure that residents and businesses continue to have reliable access. We've expressed support for the certificate to be extended through the winter.”

The Missouri Public Service Commission filed comments asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend pipeline operations through the winter. Merrill said Spire has developed contingency plans in the event it does not receive an extension to the deadline.

“There is an emergency plan and we have engaged with businesses because with that risk of outages our focus will really be on the health and safety of the region,” Merrill said. “Making sure that residents have natural gas and that critical need for hospitals, nursing homes, that they maintain access.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis 

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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