FERC on Tuesday issued a temporary certificate of public convenience and necessity to Spire STL Pipeline LLC, keeping the 65-mile, 400,000 Dth/d Midwest natural gas conduit in service for now following a court order vacating the project’s federal authorization.
Three of the four sitting members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opted to support the certificate to “ensure continuity of service for a limited period while the Commission considers appropriate next steps.” Commissioner James Danly dissented.
The move follows the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s June order vacating Spire STL’s Natural Gas Act (NGA) certificate. Earlier this month, the court denied a petition for panel rehearing filed by Spire and its affiliate Spire Missouri Inc., upholding the court’s view that FERC failed to properly examine the market need for the project.
Once in effect the court’s mandate would have removed the pipeline’s authority to operate. It also imperiled service to Spire STL customers, a scenario FERC appeared keen to avoid with winter heating season approaching.
The temporary certificate, in effect for 90 days, authorizes Spire STL to continue operating all facilities currently in service.
Danly in his dissent argued that FERC misused its emergency authority in granting the temporary certificate.
“While I understand how critical it is to ensure service continues uninterrupted and I appreciate the circumstances faced by Spire, I cannot vote for this order because it violates the NGA and the Administrative Procedure Act,” Danly wrote. “…The present situation…is simply not the type of emergency contemplated by the statute.”
FERC’s decision to issue a temporary certificate serves to avoid potential price volatility in the St. Louis region that might have resulted from speculation of a service interruption following the court ruling, analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC told clients in a research note.
“It also sidesteps potential political criticism by taking the issue off the table,” the ClearView analysts wrote. “…We think FERC could act on the pending emergency certificate application in late October or November. However, today’s order would keep the status quo in place longer if required.”
Spire STL, originally authorized by FERC in 2018, is designed to tap supplies from the Rockies Express Pipeline for delivery into the St. Louis metropolitan area.
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