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Spire gets more time to operate Missouri STL natgas pipeline

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Sept 14 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas company Spire Inc got permission from federal regulators on Tuesday to keep operating its STL natural gas pipeline in Missouri for another 90 days while regulators consider the next steps for the pipe.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's temporary order came after the U.S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated in June the certificate FERC issued for the roughly $285 million pipe in 2018.

Spire has warned that the shutdown of the 65-mile (105-km) pipeline could cause gas outages for as many as 400,000 in St. Louis this winter.

“When we filed for a temporary certificate ... the goal was to address an emergency situation in the St. Louis region while allowing FERC more time to review the full certificate on remand. Last night’s order is a good first step in doing that," Spire spokesperson Jason Merrill told Reuters.

But Merrill said Spire will keep working with all parties, including FERC, because "This authorization does not get us through what can be some of winter’s coldest months."

FERC Commissioner James Danly dissented on the order for several procedural reasons and also noted that the temporary certificate will end Dec. 12, "not even halfway through the winter season."

"I question the reasons for issuing a temporary certificate for any period shorter than the whole of winter," Danly said, noting, "It was the deficiency of our order, not any action of Spire's, that has put us where we are."

The court said the problem with the certificate was that FERC found a market need for the pipe despite only one gas supplier, an affiliate of the line's operator, committing to use it.

The line, designed to deliver up to 0.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day, began operating in November 2019.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Mark Porter)