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Rival pipeline, environmental group ask FERC to rethink Spire STL pipe approval

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Rival pipeline, environmental group ask FERC to rethink Spire STL pipe approval

Parties that oppose the Spire STL Pipeline LLC natural gas transportation project for the St. Louis area asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to pull its approval.

In two separate rehearing requests, Enable Midstream Partners' Enable Mississippi River Transmission LLC and the Environmental Defense Fund asked FERC to reconsider its certificate order for the Spire St. Louis project. The organizations said the commission's Aug. 3 authorization was arbitrary and capricious. Among other reasons, they said Spire STL, a subsidiary of Spire Inc., did not prove a sufficient public need for the project.

FERC commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick had agreed with Enable and dissented from the Spire STL approval, saying the FERC majority should have asked for more evidence of need for the project than an agreement for transportation service between Spire STL and its utility affiliate Spire Missouri Inc. The commissioners also agreed that the Spire corporate family was shifting Spire Missouri's gas transportation contracts from Enable to the Spire STL pipeline.

Enable, which operates a pipeline system that would connect with the approximately $220 million Spire STL project, said in its rehearing request that the FERC certificate order "benefits the Spire corporate family by increasing the amount of rate base on which they can earn a return."

The FERC decision to not further consider a no-action alternative to the project will result in higher costs for St. Louis market area customers, "despite the existence of other previously lower-cost options," Enable said in its Aug. 31 filing.

The Environmental Defense Fund described similar concerns in a Sept. 4 request, claiming an agreement with an affiliated LDC shipper should not act as proof of a project's need. The conservation group called for an evidentiary hearing.

The project has already attracted a challenge in the form of a rehearing request from the Missouri Public Service Commission. The Missouri state regulator's Aug. 31 filing opposed the 14% return on equity FERC approved for the Spire STL project. Parties must usually obtain a FERC decision on their rehearing requests before challenging a commission decision in federal appeals court.

The project would consist of about 65 miles of greenfield interstate pipeline, which would bring up to 400,000 Dth/d from an interconnection with Rockies Express Pipeline LLC in Illinois to St. Louis. In St. Louis County, Mo., the project would connect with Spire Missouri and the Enable system. Spire filed the project's application in January 2017. (FERC docket CP17-40)