Confusion sets in among customers as Spire announces possible gas outages | Saint-Louis news headlines

ST. LOUIS ( – A major supplier of natural gas to Saint-Louis is issuing a warning that potential disruptions and outages could occur in the future this winter.

The Spire company sent emails to customers on Thursday and Friday to let them know that these disruptions could begin to occur after December 13, if the STL pipeline cannot continue to operate.

It was an ad that caused an online frenzy on Friday.

“It’s just alarming and scary overall,” said Dawn Chapman, a customer of Speyer.

Chapman is also a member of the St. Louis County Commission on Disabled Persons. She says that since Spie informed customers of possible service issues, she has received calls from concerned neighbors and elderly residents of the St. Louis County community.

“I mean they’re terrified of freezing to death,” Chapman said. “You don’t catch everyone off guard with an email and tell anyone what to do about it. “

In 2019, Spire opened a 65-mile-long pipeline running from northern St. Louis to Scott County, Illinois. This was made possible thanks to the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which issued the certificate to Spire to operate the STL pipeline.

“The contract was based on the assumption that the service of this pipeline would be required every hour of every day to [the] Next 20 years, ”said Michael Wysession, professor of geophysics at the University of Washington.

“This is a pretty broad assumption, especially since there is an unaffiliated pipeline nearby that could be used, and we are also actively seeing a shift towards renewable energy sources with the huge wind resources that are being put in. online in western Missouri. “

The United States Court of Appeals voted to close the pipeline in June 2021 following a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Defense Fund against FERC. They claimed that FERC did not follow the procedure to assess whether there was a need for a new pipeline or that it would result in cost savings for the consumer.

“There has to be a demonstrated market need for them that outweighs their environmental health impacts,” Wysession said.

Speyer opposed the circuit court ruling. In October, the US Supreme Court dismissed Spire STL Pipeline’s request to continue operating during the winter months; however, the pipeline continued to operate under a temporary certificate issued by FERC. This is expected to expire next month, unless an extension is granted.

St. Louis City and County officials told News 4 they had expressed concerns to FERC about the pipeline’s certificate extension.

A spokesperson for St. Louis County sent this statement:

We have expressed our concerns to FERC and hope the commission will do the right thing. We worked with regional partners to prepare for what might happen and mitigate the risks. Our emergency management team is preparing and discussing with Spire the impact a service disruption could have on residents of St. Louis County. We want the assurance that residents will be safe this winter.

Spire spokesman Jason Merrill spoke to News 4 about the email sent to customers, saying they believe the STL pipeline certificate will be extended, but they also want to be transparent with the public on what was going on.

“We think this will go on into the winter and people will have the natural gas they need, but the situation we are in right now is that they don’t have any guarantees about it,” Merrill said. . “And we’re only a few weeks away from December 13, and that’s not a message you say to people on December 13.” So we want to make sure we’re transparent with customers. We don’t want to alarm them, but we want them to know that we are doing everything we can to fix this problem.

Heads of state have also raised concerns about the future of the pipeline following Spire’s email to customers.

Representative Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, sent the following statement:

It is scary to think that many homes, schools, businesses and hospitals may not have the resources to provide sufficient heat this winter. Decisions made at the federal level to shut down pipelines must be reconsidered and repealed. Every state lawmaker, congressman, and every member of the Biden administration must act now to ensure our citizens are not stranded without these resources in the freezing cold of winter.

Professor Wysession says Spire’s claims that residents could be deprived of natural gas service if the pipeline cannot continue to operate does not hold water.

“We have a lot of other pipelines,” Wysession said. “St. Louis has been getting gas for decades without this new pipeline. So it does not endanger our house or our heating. “

“Spire in response claimed it would put consumers at risk this winter, however, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Wysesssion continued. “The pipeline will be able to continue during the winter, when gas demands are the highest, that is not the cause. It’s just that we still have to prove that the evaluation of the pipeline is necessary.

Dustin Smith, associate professor of corporate social responsibility at Webster University, sees Spire’s email as an opportunity for the company to generate buzz about sustaining the pipeline after it failed in court.

“It seems a little alarmist to me. I mean, what better way to influence your environment than to piss people off, ”Smith said. “It’s a tactic that businesses can use and in a lot of ways it can be quite effective, and that’s kind of what I’m seeing here. They want people to email their members of Congress and their wives and lobby the government, through a different channel than they already have. “

Merrill maintains that this is not the case.

“We want [the public] knowing that we’re doing everything we can to fix this, but we want to be transparent with them and let them know that maybe it exists, ”Merrill said.

Residents like Chapman say they believe the way they received information about potential disruption this winter was much more puzzling and disruptive than it needed to be.

“If they really wanted to get ahead, they should have had a joint press conference with the county, the mayor and the county executive, to make sure they were on the same page,” Chapman said. “You don’t catch everyone off guard with an email and tell anyone what to do about it. “

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