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Spire STL Pipeline chief deploying construction crews for 2019 completion

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Spire STL Pipeline chief deploying construction crews for 2019 completion

With the construction contractor mobilized and pipe and other materials in position, Spire STL Pipeline LLC is about to begin work on a 65-mile project that will bring up to 400,000 Dth/d of additional natural gas supply to the St. Louis metropolitan area from the Rockies Express Pipeline LLC system.

"They should be hitting the right of way next week and start clearing and grading," Spire STL Pipeline President Scott Jaskowiak said in a Jan. 9 interview.

Jaskowiak, who is also vice president of strategy and corporate development for parent company Spire Inc., said the project has a relatively short construction time frame — the company plans to complete it in the second half of 2019 — because it is a fairly simple job. The route mostly travels through agricultural land. Jaskowiak said the pipeline company has acquired the land it needs and received three positive decisions by local courts granting the company the right to immediately acquire sections of certain properties on the right of way.

One potential problem spot, mentioned by executives in an earnings call on Nov. 15, 2018, is an 11-mile section of the route near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers at St. Louis, which can flood in years when the Midwest gets a lot of rain.

The floods are "few and far between, but sometimes they can have serious flooding," Jaskowiak said. "One of the benefits of getting started right now is getting in and out of the area before the spring season."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized Spire STL Pipeline to start construction in November 2018. Jaskowiak described the FERC permit review as "a challenging and long process."

A Republican majority at FERC had approved the $210 million to $225 million project at the beginning of August 2018, just before Republican Commissioner Robert Powelson departed, leaving the commission with two Republicans and two Democrats. The Democrats, commissioners Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur, had dissented from the majority in the Spire decision on what they felt were shortcomings in the FERC analysis of the need for the project, an issue also raised by rival pipeline company Enable Mississippi River Transmission LLC and the Natural Resources Defense Council. (FERC docket CP17-40)

Jaskowiak said the new pipeline will help the St. Louis area. "In this part of the country, we're pretty fortunate to have the Rockies Express pipeline, which is a fairly new pipeline," he said. "Combine that with this new infrastructure, now you have reliable infrastructure that accesses two more supply basins, more than what we could get to before."

"We think the benefits of the project far outweigh any of the harm or impact on other pipelines in the area," Jaskowiak said. "Overall, we think the project is great for the area. It is going to be beneficial for the residential consumers and businesses going forward. It creates a more diverse, reliable supply source and more affordability."