Spire could get more time to operate Missouri STL natgas pipeline -analysts

A natural gas pipeline runs through ustard plants in the burn zone of Chino Hills State Park, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues, in Chino Hills
A natural gas pipeline runs through mustard plants in the burn zone of Chino Hills State Park, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues, in Chino Hills, California, U.S., April 21, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Aug 25 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas company Spire Inc (SR.N) will likely get more time to keep its STL pipeline in Missouri operating, analysts said, after the environmental group that won a court decision requiring the pipe's shutdown urged the court to reject Spire's request for a rehearing.

Spire has warned that the shutdown of the 65-mile (105-km) pipeline could cause gas outages for as many as 400,000 in St. Louis during peak cold conditions this winter. read more

"As we approach winter heating season, Spire STL Pipeline’s actions ... are primarily focused on preventing a potentially life-threatening emergency that could deprive the majority of Spire Missouri’s customers in the greater St. Louis area of energy," Spire said in an email.

In June, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the certificate for the roughly $285 million Spire STL pipeline issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2018.

The panel ruled that FERC adopted an "ostrich-like approach" when it found a market need for the line despite only one gas supplier, an affiliate of the line's operator, committing to use it.

Spire asked FERC in July for emergency authorization to keep the pipe operating to avoid gas shortages this winter. Spire also asked the D.C. Circuit to reconsider its ruling.

This week, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which filed the case that got the court to vacate the STL permit in June, urged the court to deny Spire's request for rehearing and allow FERC to determine whether a temporary emergency certificate is justified.

"FERC must carefully evaluate Spire's extraordinary request for an emergency certificate and protect ratepayers, landowners, and local communities impacted by the unlawful pipeline," said Natalie Karas, EDF's senior director and lead counsel for energy markets.

"We continue to think FERC is likely to allow Spire STL to continue to operate on a temporary/emergency basis," analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC said in a note on Wednesday.

The line, designed to deliver up to 0.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day, began operating in November 2019.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; additional reporting by Swati Verma; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney

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