FERC grants another reprieve for vulnerable Spire pipeline

2 minute read

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • New temporary permit granted for Spire's natgas STL Pipeline LLC serving St. Louis area
  • Court questioned FERC's market justification for pipeline
  • Pipeline operator said shutdown might deprive St Louis residents of heat in winter

(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas company Spire Inc has received an 11th hour certification from federal regulators to keep operating its STL natural gas pipeline in Missouri, a few days before a provisional permit was set to expire for the line servicing the greater St. Louis area.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday extended a temporary permit for Spire STL Pipeline LLC to continue running its pipeline while regulators consider next steps after a court threw out a critical permit that could have resulted in the pipe's shutdown.

FERC said in a press release that the new permit "will ensure maintenance of service to customers through the 2021-22 winter heating season."

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Scott Smith, president of the Spire STL Pipeline, said in a statement to the media on Friday that the company's focus was now shifting to obtaining a permanent certificate "to protect St. Louis' energy supply long-term."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated in June a certificate FERC had issued for the 65-mile pipeline in 2018. The court said the problem with the certificate was that FERC justified a market need for the pipe despite only one gas supplier, an affiliate of the line's operator, committing to use it.

Spire warned that a shutdown of the roughly $285 million pipeline could cause gas outages for as many as 400,000 in St. Louis this winter.

FERC allowed the line to keep operating in September with a temporary emergency certificate that was set to expire on Dec. 13. Friday's decision issues another temporary permit that will last until FERC reviews the more permanent one the court canceled.

The case is Order Issuing Temporary Certificate re Spire STL Pipeline LLC under CP17-40, FERC, No. CP17-40-007.

Read more:

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

Spire gets more time to operate Missouri STL natgas pipeline

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

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