(Washington, D.C. – April 18, 2022) The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal (Spire v. Environmental Defense Fund, No. 21-848) of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that overturned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the 66-mile Spire STL pipeline in Illinois and Missouri. The D.C. Circuit’s June 2021 ruling in a case brought by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was crucial in enforcing FERC’s obligation to protect the public interest, including to protect ratepayers, landowners, and local communities from adverse impacts.
FERC has issued an ongoing emergency authorization for the pipeline while it publicly re-evaluates the pipeline in light of the D.C. Circuit ruling that its original approval process had significant legal deficiencies.
“A unanimous D.C. Circuit ruling found serious flaws in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission orders approving the Spire STL pipeline, including failing to assess the harms to ratepayers and landowners,” said Erin Murphy, senior attorney for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. “Today’s Supreme Court decision means the D.C. Circuit decision to overturn approval of the pipeline will stand undisturbed, and FERC will continue to reassess the project while ensuring it is protecting ratepayers, landowners, and local communities. FERC has already issued ongoing emergency authorization of the pipeline while it re-evaluates its decision consistent with its responsibilities under the law.”
EDF filed suit in January 2020 over concerns that FERC approved the Spire STL pipeline without conducting a meaningful review. Under the Natural Gas Act, FERC must determine whether a pipeline is necessary and beneficial to the public before approving it, including evaluating the adverse impacts on ratepayers, landowners, and local communities.
In June 2021, the D.C. Circuit ruled that there were serious deficiencies in FERC’s approval, that FERC “ignored record evidence of self-dealing” between the pipeline developer and its affiliate, and that FERC had failed to satisfy provisions in the Natural Gas Act meant to protect Spire customers. The court vacated the FERC orders approving the pipeline and remanded the matter to FERC for further proceedings. Spire STL and Spire Missouri — the pipeline developer and its affiliate company — asked the Supreme Court to review that judicial decision.
In October 2021, the Supreme Court declined Spire’s request to stay or halt the D.C. Circuit ruling. Spire filed a second stay request with the Supreme Court in December 2021 along with a petition for certiorari. Spire then withdrew that second stay request after FERC granted Spire STL an extended temporary certificate to operate the pipeline throughout the remand proceeding. The extension of the temporary certificate ensured continued service to St. Louis residents through the winter.
Spire’s petition for Supreme Court review did not challenge the D.C. Circuit court’s ruling on the merits that the original FERC orders were unlawful. It only sought review of the court’s remedy – its decision to vacate those orders. Today the Supreme Court declined that request.
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