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Spire STL Pipeline seeks stay from US Supreme Court

With winter fast approaching, the Spire STL Pipeline team is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to grant it more time to provide service to the St. Louis region. 

A three-judge panel on the D.C. Court of Appeals remanded the approval of the pipeline in June and denied a request for a rehearing last month. Spire applied for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court Monday, which would allow the Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s records on the case if approved. 

Spire also filed a motion for a stay while the court considers the filing, allowing the pipeline to remain in operation. 

Spire Missouri President Scott Carter and Spire STL Pipeline President Scott Smith said the pipeline’s temporary emergency certificate granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would expire in mid-December. The stay would allow the pipeline to remain active while the Supreme Court considers the filing. 

“With winter heating season less than one month away, customers who rely on the STL Pipeline need assurance that this critical infrastructure will continue to deliver a reliable and affordable energy supply,” Carter and Smith said in a joint statement. “Shutting down the Pipeline could potentially lead to widespread, prolonged, and life-threatening natural-gas service disruptions for residents and businesses in the greater St. Louis region.”

The question at hand is whether the remand was an appropriate remedy in the case when weighed against the potential impact of the pipeline’s removal for customers in the St. Louis area, the pair argued. They said the stay was necessary for the court to consider its application while buying additional time for the pipeline to continue providing service. 

The 65-mile pipeline began providing natural gas service to the St. Louis area in 2019, two years before its FERC approval was remanded. 

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) initially sued, arguing FERC failed to prove the pipeline’s benefits would outweigh its environmental impact. The group applauded the circuit court’s decision last month and noted “serious deficiencies” with its application; it also called on FERC to apply a more stringent review of future projects to reduce environmental effects. 

“The court has appropriately rejected the request to revisit its initial decision,” said Natalie Karas, EDF’s senior director and lead counsel. “FERC has the authority and fact-finding tools to craft a remedy that fulfills the need for reliable service while safeguarding other public interests.” 

The pipeline has continued engaging stakeholders, including Missouri’s Public Service Commission, in the weeks following its emergency certification. Sean Jamieson, the pipeline’s general counsel, previously said the team was pursuing all available legal and regulatory avenues to keep the system online.

FERC is led by Richard Glick, who opposed the pipeline’s approval when it was before the commission in 2019. Glick took a similar position to EDF’s at the time, arguing Spire and FERC failed to adequately demonstrate the need for the operation. 

If taken offline, the project would leave 175,000-400,000 customers in the region without service, with a gap lasting up to 100 days before another source is connected, Spire said. Its filings noted the impact of February’s winter storm and the possibility of mass outages if a similar event were to occur while the system remains in flux. 

The PSC is investigating contingencies for customers in case the pipeline is shut down.

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