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I Need You - FERC's New Spire STL Decision Helps Secure Future of Key Gas Infrastructure

On December 15, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a permanent certificate authorizing the Spire STL natural gas pipeline serving the St. Louis area to continue operations. Spire STL had been on a treacherous legal roller-coaster, wherein its owner got a FERC certificate in 2018, built and started operation of the 65-mile pipeline in 2019, then in 2021 saw its certificate “vacated” — wiped out — by a U.S. Court of Appeals. Then, during the white-knuckled tail end of the ride, with the winter of 2021-22 looming, Spire STL got emergency/temporary authorization from FERC to keep operating while a brand-new application for a certificate was being considered. In today's RBN blog, we discuss the case — in which RBN played a part — and what it means for upcoming midstream projects.

We have to admit up front that RBN is a little biased in this matter, since we provided the support for Spire STL’s new “statement of need,” the part of the application directly responsive to the appellate court’s criticism. Still, even a genuinely neutral party would acknowledge that the case poses a number of interesting questions about how the need for pipeline capacity is assessed, the role of gas-supply diversity, and how gas infrastructure is approved.

As we said last year in Will You Be There?, the Spire STL pipeline (purple line in Figure 1) since November 2019 has connected the massive Rockies Express pipeline (REX; dark blue line) to the St. Louis area, much of which is served by Spire Missouri, a local distribution company (LDC) and affiliate of Spire STL. Prior to the startup of the Spire STL pipeline 37 months ago, the LDC received its gas primarily from Enable Midstream’s Mississippi River Transmission pipeline (MRT; green line), as well as from the MoGas Pipeline (too small to include on Figure 1 map) and the Southern Star Central Pipeline (pink line). (Connections to those pipelines, which deliver gas primarily from Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, have been maintained.)

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