Spire Could Get More Time to Operate Missouri STL NatGas Pipeline

(Reuters) — U.S. natural gas company Spire Inc. will likely get more time to keep its STL pipeline in Missouri operating after the environmental group that won a court decision requiring the pipe shutdown asked the court for more time, according to analysts.

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

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

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.

"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.

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 uphold its ruling but wait 90 days to order the pipeline to shut to give FERC more time to act on Spire's request.

"We think the court is most likely to reject Spire STL’s petition, but it may withhold its mandate (to shut the pipe) for the 90 days as EDF has suggested," analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC said in a note on Wednesday.

"We continue to think FERC is likely to allow Spire STL to continue to operate on a temporary/emergency basis, but potentially at neither its full current capacity nor rates this winter (and beyond)," ClearView said.

Officials at Spire and EDF were not immediately available for comment.

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

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