A Missouri gas company has found a way to keep their illegal pipeline running

Last month, thousands of Missourians received an alarming email from their utility company: Unless federal regulators allow a new natural gas pipeline in the area to continue operating. , about 400,000 St. Louis may not have the heat this winter.

The message comes from Spire Missouri Inc., a natural gas company serving approximately 1.2 million customers in Missouri.

Dawn Chapman, resident of St. Louis and co-founder of Just Moms STL, a group that educates people about Superfund dumps in the area, said: “The level of panic is something I’ve never seen before.

Missouri Representative Cori Bush call The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to investigate the nature of Spire’s claims. “I am deeply concerned that Spire Inc. may be actively weaponizing the fears of our community members,” she wrote in a letter dated November 17, “many of them.” are low-income individuals, families with young children and the elderly – for their own sake.”

Spire’s warning to customers – and the resulting panic – is the latest in a long saga about the controversial 65-mile Spire STL pipeline.

In 2018, FERC licensed Spire to build a new pipeline capable of carrying 400,000 dekatherms natural gas every day. The route would connect the Rockies Express Pipeline in southwestern Illinois with the St. Louis. Construction was completed and the pipeline came into operation a year later.

But in 2020, the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, or EDF, filed a lawsuit against FERC for authorizing the project. It argued that the FERC licensed without legally binding evidence that a new pipeline was necessary and beneficial to the region. There are already five natural gas pipelines serving the St. Louis, several of Spire’s natural gas pipelines.

Construction of the pipeline ended up costing $287 million. Typically, pipelines must represent market demand prior to construction. Evidence for market demand is often expressed through multiple contracts or agreements with utility companies interested in using the pipeline. But in the case of the STL project, their only contract is, and is, with their own affiliate, Spire Missouri.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” Murphy told Grist, “because it’s not the typical relationship a gas company has to have—one handshake of the other, with an associated construction company. build a pipeline for that gas utility only.

“If a pipeline is really needed to serve the market, then there will be more interest in registering capacity on the pipeline.”

The lawsuit also argues that FERC allowing the pipeline is contingent upon there being no negative consequences for landowners along its path. By law, Spire is required to restore land after construction and minimize disruption to the community, which Murphy said, “isn’t happening at all.” EDF is representing a number of court clients who have lost arable land to the project.

The US Court of Appeals ruled in favor of EDF in June 2021 and ordered Spire to shut down the pipeline. The company was given a 90-day grace period to resume operations, during which time it was supposed to put in place a contingency plan.

Instead, Spire emailed their customers in early November about the potential outage. A few weeks later, on November 30, the company raised the price of gas for all of its customers. The people in St. Louis saw bill increase about $14 per month. Spire attributed the rise in natural gas prices to below market in 2021, not due to the pipeline war.

But environmental advocates and politicians are saying that Spire is scared to win support for its pipeline.

“They are scaring people away to protect their now illegal pipeline,” said Michael Berg, political director of the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter.

Chapman says there’s a lot of doubt in the community right now. “Surname [increased gas prices] beyond the level of panic they created. ”

The court ordered the pipeline to be closed by December 13. But on December 3, FERC decided to grant it. temporary extension on Spire’s operating license to get through the winter months.

Jason Merrill, Spire’s chief communications officer, told Grist that if the STL pipeline goes down in December of this year, the company has contingency plans in place to ship its gas through other pipelines, though only a quarter of the gas transported by STL. Daily. “There is some capacity already on the market, but it doesn’t come close to the 350,000 dekatherms per day that the Spire STL pipeline brings into the region,” he said.

Berg from the Sierra Club says that Spire could easily get a contract with Enable MRT, another pipeline that provides services to St. Louis, at half the cost of the existing pipeline.

Based on An email Sent to utility customers by Spire Missouri president Scott Carter, the company is now focused on securing a new perpetual certificate of service for the pipeline.

“This is part of the gas industry’s broad grassroots campaign to [build] “As quickly as possible, with as much infrastructure in place as possible, before the large-scale transition away from gas really takes place,” Berg said. A Missouri gas company has found a way to keep their illegal pipeline running

Caroline Bleakley

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