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Environmentalists, St. Louis residents aim to halt Spire's gas pipeline

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas in Moreland Township, Pa.
Ruhrfisch | Wikimedia Commons
Some St. Louis County residents oppose a proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through parts of Illinois and Missouri on the grounds that it would encourage more hydraulic fracturing, which emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Natural gas company Spire could soon win federal approval to build a 65-mile pipeline that ferries natural gas from eastern U.S. shale formations to the St. Louis region. However, some residents and environmental lawyers want to put a halt to the project, saying there are too many environmental risks involved with building the pipeline. 

The Spire STL Pipeline would run through Scott, Greene and Jersey counties in Illinois and St. Charles and St. Louis counties in Missouri. Because it crosses state lines, it requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which released an environmental assessment of the project at the end of September.

Area residents and environmentalists complain that the project would only encourage more hydraulic fracturing, an activity that emits methane, one of several greenhouse gases that causes climate change.

"We're concerned about the continued production and consumption of fuels which contribute to climate change," said Henry Robertson, a lawyer at the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. "Therefore we would oppose a project that would enable more exploitation of fossil fuels." 

A map of Spire's proposed STL Pipeline project.
Credit Spire
A map of Spire's proposed STL Pipeline project.

The Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed a motion to intervene on the FERC's review of the project. This was on behalf of a St. Louis County resident, Juli Viel, who demanded a more comprehensive environmental assessment of the project's potential impacts.  

"[The pipeline] goes underneath the Missouri River, it goes underneath the Mississippi River," Viel said. "What goes through these pipelines is not benign. It's polluting." 

Viel lives in Spanish Lake, a largely African-American and low-income community. The proposed pipeline would run a quarter mile from the area, which Robertson said is unfair to residents.   

"It's the duty of the Federal Energy Regulatory to guard against undue impacts on minority communities," Roberson said. 

Robertson added that the project could affect a couple of federally protected endangered species, the Indiana bat and a flower called the decurrent false aster. 

Scott Jaskowiak, vice president of Spire STL Pipeline, said that the company has taken steps to mitigate the environmental impact of the project and maintains it's necessary to build the pipeline. 

"We have an obligation to provide safe, secure energy to our customers. For St. Louis, natural gas is the most reliable way to do that," Jaskowiak said.

Spire plans to start construction of the pipeline in February. 

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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