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SCOTUS declines to hear appeal on Illinois gas pipeline

By JOSH CHESTER, Public News Service

A 65-mile gas pipeline in western Illinois is in limbo after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider reinstating federal authorization for the project.

Permits for the Spire STL Pipeline, which cuts through Illinois and Missouri, were struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., last year, after the three-judge panel said federal regulators had not done their due diligence when approving the project.

According to Spire, the company serves roughly 650,000 households and businesses in eastern Missouri. While it ends in St. Louis, most of the Spire STL Pipeline is in Illinois, cutting through Scott, Greene and Jersey counties.

Erin Murphy, senior attorney of energy markets and utility regulation for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the failures have had long-term impacts. The EDF brought the initial suit challenging the pipeline authorization in 2020.

“A lot of folks who live along the path of the pipeline, to this day are still facing disruptions to their farmland, disruptions to prairies and ranch land,” Murphy pointed out. “There are ongoing negative impacts resulting from the pipeline construction.”

The line is still operational, as it’s running on temporary permits issued after the lower court’s ruling last year. Murphy said those will stay in effect until federal regulators complete their new review.

Scott Smith, president of Spire Pipeline, said in a statement, “There is a critical need to keep this infrastructure fully operational to ensure continued access to reliable, affordable energy for families and businesses in the greater St. Louis region.”

The pipeline authorization was issued in 2018 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC, which administers interstate pipeline projects. Murphy said the Supreme Court’s decision will mean a more thorough review by FERC this time around.

“The Supreme Court’s decision means that the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision to overturn approval of the pipeline will stand undisturbed,” Murphy noted. “FERC will continue to reassess the project, while ensuring that it is protecting ratepayers, landowners and local communities.”

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