Contested natural gas pipeline granted permanent certificate

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Federal officials on Thursday granted Spire Inc. a permanent certificate to operate a natural gas pipeline in Missouri and Illinois, angering the environmental group that had sued over the project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission first granted approval for the Spire STL Pipeline in 2018 and it became fully operational in 2019. It connects with another pipeline in western Illinois and carries natural gas to the St. Louis region, where Spire serves around 650,000 customers.

But the Environmental Defense Fund sued in 2020, raising concerns that the pipeline was approved without adequate review. Last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that FERC had not adequately demonstrated a need for the project, vacating approval of the pipeline.

For the past year, the pipeline had been operating under a temporary certificate while FERC conducted a court-ordered review.

Scott Smith, president of the Spire STL Pipeline, said in a statement that he was pleased with the decision. He described the review the project underwent as “thorough.”

But Ted Kelly, an Environmental Defense Fund attorney, disagreed, saying that FERC had “again failed to fulfill its obligation,” alleging that some landowners, ratepayers and stakeholders were shut out of the review.

He said that FERC should reverse its decision to grant the permanent certificate and reopen the process with a temporary certificate in place so there is no disruption in service.

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