ST. LOUIS — Spire customers are speaking out after the natural gas company warned of possible outages this winter if the pipeline shuts down.
Customers received an email from the utility this week, warning of a potential shutdown on Dec. 13 as the company is involved in a legal battle with the federal government to keep operations running.
The pipeline is 65 miles long, running through Illinois and connecting in St. Louis.
Back in June, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the approval for the pipeline in 2018 was unlawful, leaving some customers worried about the future.
“This is just going to be too close,” said Spire customer Jim Warren. “The gas company and the government should have been on this, and I’m really surprised we’re even having to talk about this.”
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.
The pipeline is currently only cleared to operate until Dec. 13. After that, Spire will still be able to deliver gas to customers, but during emergencies involving equipment or extreme weather, the shutdown will limit their options in providing uninterrupted services to customers.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen. But as we sit here right now, Dec. 13 is only a few weeks away. This is not a message you let people know on Dec. 13,” said Spire spokesperson Jason Merrill.
In Lake St. Louis, the Warren family is now trying to figure out what to do.
“It’s going to be a gazillion people buying space heaters, buying any electric generators to put some power in their house,” said Warren, “So, it’s just going to be a madhouse.”
Russ Hoock, the owner of Hoock’s Heating and Cooling, expects a wave of calls to decide what’s best.
“Well, electric heat is probably one of the most costly forms of heat because it’s basically just burning electric elements. So, a heat pump is an easy way to warm your house but also stay easy on the electric bill,” said Hook.
Spire said in its email to customers that while it’s hopeful the government will extend the approval for the pipeline to operate for the full winter heating season, it wants customers to be prepared.