Energy & Environment

Federal energy regulator allows St. Louis pipeline to continue operating

Federal energy regulators will allow a pipeline that carries natural gas to the St. Louis area to operate through winter amid an legal battle over the pipeline's authorization.

The pipeline's authorization certificate was revoked following a court challenge from the Environmental Defense Fund in November. A temporary certificate allowed the pipeline, operated by Spire, to operate in the meantime but was set to expire next Monday.

In a Friday order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the commission granted a new temporary certificate that will allow the pipeline to operate while its ultimate fate is resolved.

"[T]he record demonstrates that without a temporary certificate, Spire's customer, Spire Missouri, will experience a loss of gas supply potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of homes and business during the winter heating season," FERC said in the order. "Therefore, we find that an emergency exists and will issue Spire a temporary certificate."

Spire affiliates Spire STL and Spire Missouri had entered a contract for nearly 88 percent of the energy carried by the pipeline. EDF argued the company was self-dealing in challenging it in court.

A federal appeals court sided with the environmental group in June and ordered further federal review of the pipeline.

In a statement Saturday, EDF said Spire had misrepresented the threat of St. Louis residents going without power if the pipeline was not allowed to continue operating.

"EDF has consistently told regulators that the pipeline should be allowed to operate to ensure reliable service. FERC's action provides clarity for St. Louis customers and rectifies the confusion and fear created by Spire's misleading campaign," EDF Senior Director and Lead Counsel Natalie Karas said in a statement. "As FERC carries out a comprehensive review in accordance with the law, it has a duty to protect Spire's customers from improper costs and to protect the landowners and communities impacted by the construction and operation of the pipeline."

Scott Smith, the president of the Spire STL pipeline, offered confidence in a statement that courts will see the benefits of the pipeline.

"We are confident that when people have an opportunity to review the proven benefits of the STL Pipeline and current market conditions they will agree that there is a critical need to keep fully operational infrastructure in service to ensure continued access to reliable, affordable energy for homes and businesses in the greater St. Louis region," he said in a statement in response to the order. 

This story was updated at 5:51 p.m.

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