(WASHINGTON) The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a temporary certificate on December 3rd allowing the Spire STL Pipeline to continue operating through Winter and through the duration of the agency remand proceeding. The widely anticipated move allays fears stoked in a misleading and harmful public relations campaign by company affiliate Spire Missouri, which falsely suggested that utility customers could be left without gas heat this winter due to a ruling by a U.S. Court of Appeals.
“EDF has consistently told regulators that the pipeline should be allowed to operate to ensure reliable service. FERC’s action provides clarity for St. Louis customers and rectifies the confusion and fear created by Spire’s misleading campaign. As FERC carries out a comprehensive review in accordance with the law, it has a duty to protect Spire’s customers from improper costs and to protect the landowners and communities impacted by the construction and operation of the pipeline,” said EDF Senior Director and Lead Counsel Natalie Karas.
The FERC order grants Spire STL a temporary certificate that will remain in effect until FERC completes its comprehensive review consistent with the court’s ruling. This review must protect customers from improper costs and protect the landowners and communities adversely impacted by the unlawful review and approval of the pipeline including the condemnation of private property, according to Karas. In the interim, the temporary order expressly requires Spire STL to continue restoration of damages along the project right-of-way.
FERC’s decision will allow the parties to focus on the remand proceeding and to address the serious deficiencies identified in the court’s ruling, including that “the Commission ignored record evidence of self-dealing and failed to seriously and thoroughly conduct the interest-balancing required” in its review and approval of the pipeline.
“FERC’s action should immediately put to rest the needless fear that Spire’s harmful and misleading public relations campaign has caused for its own customers and the resulting attacks on EDF employees,” said Karas.
History of Legal Action
EDF filed suit in January 2020 over concerns that FERC granted an operating certificate to the Spire STL pipeline without the legally-required justification that the costly pipeline was needed and beneficial to the public – a legal safeguard meant to protect customers from unnecessary costs, and landowners from inappropriate condemnation of their property.
In June, a U.S. Court of Appeals agreed, ruling there were serious deficiencies in FERC’s approval, finding that the agency had failed to meet provisions in the Natural Gas Act meant to protect Spire customers from unnecessary costs and landowners from condemnation of property associated with the pipeline.
In October, the United States Supreme Court declined Spire’s request to stay or halt the Circuit Court ruling. FERC granted Spire STL a temporary operating certificate to continue operating the pipeline through December 13th.
On December 3rd, Spire renewed its request to the Supreme Court to stay the D.C. Circuit’s decision. EDF responded to the Supreme Court explaining why that request should be denied, including the December 3rd FERC order granting a temporary certificate through the winter and through the completion of the remand proceedings. Spire also filed for a petition for certiorari on December 3rd seeking further Supreme Court review.
Going forward, we believe FERC must do a better job of assessing the benefits and burdens of the infrastructure it approves to ensure customers are protected from unnecessary costs.
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