Spire asks SCOTUS to hit pause on Missouri STL pipeline shutdown

Oil, steam and natural gas pipelines run through the forest at the Cenovus Foster Creek SAGD oil sands operations near Cold Lake.
REUTERS/Todd Korol
  • Natural gas company wants mandate stayed
  • Gibson Dunn's Ted Olson says time needed for justices to rule on forthcoming cert petition

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas company Spire Inc on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay an order shutting down the company's STL natural gas pipeline in Missouri, arguing the high court is likely to take up a dispute over the pipeline's fate.

In June a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. vacated a critical certificate issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2018 for St. Louis-based Spire to continue operating the Spire STL Pipeline. Spire obtained temporary permission from FERC last month to operate the 65-mile pipeline until Dec. 13 while regulators consider the next steps for the pipe.

The company has warned that shutting off the pipeline will lead to gas outages for as many as 400,000 in St. Louis when FERC's temporary permission expires this winter. However, the company on Friday failed to persuade the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit not to issue a formal shutdown mandate on Oct. 8.

In Monday's filing, Spire's attorneys at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, led by Theodore Olson, urged the court to grant the stay because there is a "reasonable probability" the justices will select their case for review and reverse the lower court's decision.

The case involves "a frequently recurring fundamental question of administrative law," the company's lawyers wrote.

It "presents a substantial question as to whether remand without vacatur is the appropriate remedy where invalid agency action could plausibly be corrected on remand," the filing says. The lawyers cite the 5th and 3rd U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals as favoring the remand of agency decisions without vacatur in similar circumstances.

Spire has until Dec. 6 to petition the Supreme Court for a review of the lower court ruling, analysts at ClearView Energy Partners have said in a note to clients.

Non-profit Environmental Defense Fund, whose 2020 lawsuit prompted the ruling against the line, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is represented by lawyers at Duncan & Allen and by in-house counsel.

FERC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"A stay will ensure the U.S. Supreme Court has an opportunity to rule on Spire STL Pipeline's forthcoming petition for a writ of certiorari, Spire Missouri president Scott Carter and Spire STL Pipeline Scott Smith said in a statement.

The pipeline is designed to deliver up to 0.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. It began operating in November 2019.

The case is Spire Missouri Inc et al v. Environment Defense Fund et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. N/A.

For Spire Missouri Inc et al: Theodore Olson of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Read more:

Spire gets more time to operate Missouri STL natgas pipeline

Court denies Spire's bid to rehear $285 mln pipeline permit vacatur

FERC's rationale for pipeline cert weak, says D.C. Circuit

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