You probably saw an email that Spire sent to all its customers on November 4. It panicked a lot of people into thinking they’ll lose heat in December if the new Spire STL gas pipeline shuts down.
Don’t worry, it won’t be shut down. Spire isn’t telling the whole truth, which is that it’s scare-mongering to escape a dilemma of its own making.
Like any utility, Spire profits from building new infrastructure that its ratepayers — us — have to pay for. An interstate pipeline like the Spire STL has to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). To get a certificate to build it, Spire had to convince FERC that there was a need for this pipeline. Spire thought it could get this past FERC. That was a good bet; FERC has hardly ever seen a pipeline proposal it didn’t like.
In fact, there was no need. Spire even had to admit to FERC that there was no shortage of gas supply to the St. Louis region. They held an “open house” to see if any natural gas shipper would agree to use the new pipeline. Not one was interested.
So Spire submitted to FERC an agreement it signed with its fully owned subsidiary Spire Missouri (formerly Laclede Gas) as the sole customer for this pipeline. FERC rubber-stamped the application.
But this was too much for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They threw out the approval because Spire had engaged in “self-dealing” with its own affiliate. Since that decision Spire has mounted a massive lobbying campaign trying to blame someone else for the consequences of its own actions.
FERC will not let us freeze this winter. But next year it will have to reconsider Spire’s application and decide if Spire’s wrongdoing can be safely undone.
November 7, 2021
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