Environmental group demands Spire halt ‘false and defamatory’ messaging about pipeline

The Environmental Defense Fund says it has received threatening messages because of Spire’s warnings about the potential fate of the pipeline

By: - November 15, 2021 1:36 pm

Spire Missouri President Scott Carter discusses the fate of the Spire STL Pipeline at a press conference in November 2021. The Missouri Public Service Commission criticized Spire for its messaging about risks to natural gas service if it were forced to shutter the Spire STL Pipeline. (Screenshot via Facebook).

An environmental organization is demanding Spire Missouri cease and desist its campaign warning customers of dire consequences this winter if the Spire STL pipeline is shut down. 

The Environmental Defense Fund, which challenged the pipeline’s permit to operate, wrote to Spire on Friday saying the company’s “false and defamatory” comments had inspired area residents to send profanity-laced threats to the nonprofit.

The 65-mile Spire STL pipeline has been operational since 2019, transporting natural gas from Illinois into Missouri. But its certificate to operate was revoked by a federal appeals court that said regulators ignored evidence Spire was self-dealing following a challenge from the Environmental Defense Fund. 

It’s currently operating on a temporary certificate that expires Dec. 13

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is poised, EDF said, to give Spire STL an extension to avoid outages this winter. But Spire Missouri warned its St. Louis area customers in an email earlier this month that the pipeline was in jeopardy and forecast dire circumstances this winter, blaming a “New York-based environmental group.” 

EDF has members who own land the pipeline travels across. 

That messaging, according to a letter EDF sent Spire on Friday, has “mislead and inspired individuals to direct menacing and threatening messages to individuals as EDF.” 

EDF noted that FERC is prepared to consider an extension this week to allow the pipeline to keep operating. And it reminded Spire that the environmental group supports such an extension to keep St. Louis residents warm this winter. 

“Ignoring this reality, Spire has engaged in a public relations campaign designed to engender fear among citizens of the St. Louis region that they may not have heat in the winter because of EDF’s legal challenge,” the letter, signed by an attorney representing EDF says.

If Spire doesn’t halt its “campaign of false and defamatory statements,” the letter says EDF will take “all appropriate actions, including potentially seeking redress through the legal system.” 

The attorney includes several purported messages EDF has received. 

“I hope someone exterminates every single member of your worthless organization and every single family member and friend you worthless piece of s*** have,” one says. 

Another says: “Just so you are aware, if our gas goes off in the middle of winter in STL, if you leave tens of thousands of poor and middle class folks in the STL area without power, I absolutely promise you that every family in the STL area will know who is at fault for this: the EDF. An organization that is funded by wealthy elite sociopathic a**holes who constantly s**** on the poor for their crazy Earth religion of nonsense.” 

Spire representatives said in a news conference last week that they had a responsibility to prepare customers for what could happen this winter. 

The company didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Spire’s Spokesman Jason Merill said that when the company becomes aware of a potential threat to service “we believe it’s important to keep our customers informed so that everyone can be prepared.”

Spire noted EDF’s support of the temporary extension that will be before FERC Thursday but said it “cannot be ignored that EDF brought this lawsuit in the first place and that it could result in a potential shutdown of this critical energy infrastructure for the region.

“Despite EDF’s repeated public statements that FERC will grant an additional certificate, Spire STL Pipeline has no assurances regarding if or when the commission will act.”

This story has been updated since it first published to include a statement from Spire. 

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on energy, the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she previously covered City Hall for The Kansas City Star, as well as state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City.