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PSC investigating Spire STL Pipeline contingencies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered Spire Missouri to file contingency plans as the fate of the Spire STL Pipeline remains in flux.

The 65-mile interstate pipeline was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the PSC’s federal counterpart, in 2018. However, three judges on a federal appellate court vacated its approval in June and remanded the issue following a legal challenge mounted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). FERC has yet to take the next step on the case. 

Spire and other stakeholders — including members of Missouri’s congressional delegation and the PSC itself — have advocated for an emergency certificate from FERC to allow the pipeline to continue operating while its fate is decided. 

The PSC ordered Spire to submit monthly reports on its contingency plans and conditions that may impact its ability to provide service to the St. Louis area through March 2022 during Wednesday’s agenda meeting. 

The commission also opened an investigation into Spire’s compliance with Missouri’s gas safety rules. Spire let the mechanical joining qualifications of its employees lapse prior to October 2020, according to PSC Staff. The investigation will be a fact-finding operation only, though Staff will be allowed to file a complaint if the commission deems it necessary. 

Commissioners scheduled testimony and hearings in a complaint case against Spire from two natural gas providers over February’s winter storms. Constellation Energy, a Maryland-based natural gas provider, filed a complaint regarding Spire’s assessment of $35 million in Operation Flow Order (OFO) penalties regarding its handling of the winter weather event. Texas-based Symmetry Energy Solutions pursued its own complaint case against Spire over the same issue, and the commission consolidated the cases Wednesday. 

Testimony was scheduled from December-April. 

Symmetry also leveled a complaint against the Empire District Electric Company, alleging Empire threatened to shut off gas flow from Symmetry to its customers over an $11.9 million dispute related to the cold snap. The commission ordered Empire to refrain from shutting down service while it considers the case.

The public will be able to comment on Empire’s proposed general rate increase during three hearings scheduled for November. Another Empire filing seeking to increase its base distribution rates by more than $1.3 million was suspended until an evidentiary hearing which was scheduled for April. 

Ameren Missouri was granted a variance from commission rules after it failed to provide reports on third-party purchases as part of its Renewable Energy Standard (RES) plan. The commission excused Ameren from filing the data in its 2020 report after Staff approved the rest of the company’s reports. 

Finally, the commission opened a working case to consider enacting a new voluntary renewable gas program. Each natural gas corporation under the purview of the commission will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposal. 

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9.