Spire touts necessity of natural gas pipeline as critics question the utility’s tactics

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Spire Missouri’s president said he never wanted to ‘raise concern’ about the possibility of a gas outage this winter. He said during an afternoon press conference the utility has a commitment to keep customers informed of what’s going on.

Spire officials joined leaders from industry, labor, and community organizations to show a united effort to keep the pipeline open.

Scott Carter, Spire Missouri’s president, said the only guarantee that the company’s hundreds of thousands of customers will have natural gas is through December 13. That is when the emergency certificate issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will expire.

He said while he is optimistic FERC will listen to the comments and reports showing the importance of the pipeline. However, the utility needs to be prepared for alternatives.

Carter said even if there is a 1% chance risk of an outage, the utility needs to get the word out to the public. Carter sent an email to Spire customers last week detailing its situation.

Just after the Spire news conference concluded, a separate event, hosted by critics of the pipeline started. St. Louis County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy weighed in on the email Spire sent to customers.

“I think this was largely under the radar for many of my constituents, but it was the email that came out on last Thursday that really made people scared and was much different than anything else that they had heard about this situation in the past,” said Clancy.

During the meeting, St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia also criticized the email.

“Many people have mentioned to me what happened in Texas last year when homes were left for days and days in freezing temperatures and residents actually died,” said Ingrassia. “We are not in this situation in St. Louis or in our region and Spire needs to make sure they let their customers know.”

Spire is still waiting for FERC to decide on an order that would keep the pipeline open through the winter. Carter said FERC has put Spire on the agenda for consideration on November 18.

Back in June, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the approval for the 65-mile long pipeline in 2018 was unlawful, leaving some customers worried about the future.

In October, Spire asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow it to keep operating to no avail. The court ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “failed to adequately balance public benefits and adverse impacts” of the pipeline. The court also questioned the pipeline’s necessity.

There is no certainty this pipeline will operate after December 13 said Spire STL’s general counsel Sean Jamieson. He called this a serious matter.

Jamison also said the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) concluded there was a need for the Spire STL pipeline this winter.

He also pointed out that last February the pipeline proved its worth. He said when it was brutally cold out the pipeline delivered reliable, affordable natural gas to the region. He says that wasn’t the case for other parts of the country.

Spire does have contingency plans in place however Carter said their goal is to never use the plan.

He explained one alternative was to bring more gas into the region. He said the utility looked at every pipeline in the area and even possibly trucking in natural gas. Carter says they’ve secured ones that would serve customers the best but it is not enough to replace what comes off the Spire STL Pipeline.

He also said it is not just about having it available, but where the gas shows up and how to effectively serve customers.

Carter used a map to illustrate that the traditional sources bring gas to the downtown area. He pointed out that growth in west St. Louis County, St. Charles, and outlying areas now have a demand for gas. He says the Spire STL pipeline allows for the natural gas to reach the areas out west.

Carter says other contingency plans include trying to curtail service to customers during cold periods and keep it available for critical infrastructures and homes. The other contingency is for controlled shutdowns.

And while Spire waits for regulators, Jamieson says the pipeline’s intention is not to pressure FERC. He said it is their job to inform with information. He said the pipeline is ready to be transparent and provide any information needed.

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