St. Louis beer maker worried gas pipeline might be closed

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A polka-beer drinking song says “In Heaven, there is no beer—that’s why, we drink it here.”

But a court battle over a natural gas pipeline in Missouri has some wondering if there’ll be no beer here.

Spire’s natural gas pipeline battle in St. Louis finally got the attention of major businesses including the well-known beermaker Anheuser-Busch.

Anheuser-Busch and several other large companies based in Missouri came out this week with a warning. They suggested there could be “substantial impacts” if Spire isn’t allow to continue operations of its natural gas pipeline past Dec. 13.

The 65-mile line that runs through Missouri and Illinois is the focus of a legal battle in which Chief Justice John Roberts has already rejected a Supreme Court stay request from Spire. Justice Roberts took the action last month regarding the Spire STL Pipeline.

As a result, Spire might be forced to stop operating the pipeline Dec. 13 unless an emergency order issued in September by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is extended.

Scott Smith, president of Spire STL Pipeline, said in a statement that the company was disappointed in the decision.

“Shutting down the Pipeline could potentially lead to widespread, prolonged, and life-threatening natural-gas service disruptions for residents and businesses in the greater St. Louis region,” said Scott Smith, president of Spire STL Pipeline at the time of the ruling.

In a challenge filed by the Environmental Defense Fund, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled FERC “failed to adequately balance public benefits and adverse impacts” in approving the pipeline. The judges added that there was evidence showing the pipeline “is not being built to serve increasing load demand and that there is no indication the new pipeline will lead to cost savings.”

The  $285 million STL Pipeline opened in November 2019 and services the region with natural gas which Anheuser-Busch uses in the production of its beers.

Anheuser-Busch has more than 3,000 employees in Missouri and recently told FERC the company “takes seriously the consequences that would be caused by the loss of the STL Pipeline.” Jim Bicklein, senior general manager for the company’s St. Louis brewery said  “more than 30 percent of our shipments from the St. Louis brewery to our wholesalers is via trucks that use compressed natural gas.”

In a letter to FERC, Bicklein had an ominous warning about the possible shutdown of the line.

“If the STL Pipeline were to be shut off, our brewery operations would be impacted and the station we use near the brewery would also be shut off, severely curtailing our fleet. This, in turn, would cause a ripple effect throughout our broader industry. With potential limitations and outages extending beyond our own operations to other businesses, negative economic consequences for the entire St. Louis region are inevitable.”

Sources: KSDK TV/St. Louis Business Journal