West Coast leaders urge feds to reverse decision allowing natural gas pipeline expansion

A map of the Gas Transmission Northwest Express pipeline, or GTN Express, from the Idaho-Canada border to Southern Oregon. (Courtesy of TC Energy)

State attorneys general in Oregon, Washington and California and two Oregon-based environmental groups are asking federal energy regulators to reconsider their approval of a natural gas pipeline project that would increase the flow of gas through the Northwest.

Federal regulators voted unanimously Oct. 19 to allow Calgary-based TC Energy to expand the capacity of its 1,400-mile-long GTN Xpress gas pipeline through Oregon, Idaho, Washington and northern California. The expansion would allow 150 million more cubic feet of gas to be delivered to the region each day.

It currently transports about 2 billion cubic feet of gas from western Canada to West Coast consumers each day – enough to power 5 million U.S. homes each day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and California Attorney General Rob Bonta and lawyers for Rogue Climate in southern Oregon and Hood River-based Columbia Riverkeeper, filed petitions with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Environmentalists on Tuesday asked for a rehearing from the commission, and accused commissioners of violating two federal laws meant to mitigate environmental harm and ensure gas projects are in the public interest. The state attorneys general filed their petition Wednesday.

Natural gas is almost entirely made up of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and a main contributor to global warming. It’s primarily used to heat homes and businesses, including at least a quarter of all homes in Oregon, according to the state’s Department of Energy.

The state attorneys general claim that TC Energy has not demonstrated the long-term demand for the increase in gas, and that the project is counter to the region’s climate laws, which require greenhouse gas emissions to decrease at least 90% in Oregon by 2050 and 95% in Washington by the same year. In Oregon, at least 26% of that reduction will have to come from natural gas.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in an online news conference Wednesday that he requested that Ferguson file the petition to “right an abusive decision” that will impact people in Washington and the Northwest, and to ensure federal regulators honor climate laws passed in West Coast states.

“This is the express intent of the entire Western Coast of the United States,” Inslee said. “We kind of thought the West Coast is still part of the United States, and our intent to reduce the use of gas over time ought to be recognized. It has not been. We don’t think FERC’s done its job,” he said.

Federal energy commissioners have 30 days to respond to the petitions. If the commission ignores or denies the request, the groups said in a news release they will challenge the commission’s decision in federal court.

Michael Tade, a spokesperson for TC Energy, previously told the Oregon Capital Chronicle that the company appreciated the approval from federal regulators to upgrade the pipeline, because it needs to expand its carrying capacity due to increased demand from consumers.

Environmental groups said federal regulators ignored widespread concerns.

“FERC failed to resolve critical questions raised by states, senators, and thousands of people across the Northwest,” said Audrey Leonard, staff attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper.

The federal energy commission approved the pipeline project after more than a year of opposition from regional Democratic leaders – including Oregon and Washington governors, attorneys general and U.S. senators – and more than a dozen environmental and social justice groups.

Idaho’s congressional delegation supports the pipeline project, as does Oregon state Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner. And Oregon’s two Republican U.S. representatives, Lori Chavez-DeRemer and Cliff Bentz, urged the commission in an Oct. 10 letter to allow the pipeline expansion.

The expansion of the GTN Xpress would result in an additional 3.47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being released for at least the next 30 years, according to a joint filing opposing the pipeline that was submitted to the federal commission in August 2022 by the three state attorneys general.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

— By Alex Baumhardt, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Climate cultists and democrat regulators working hard to further crush the lives of regular people. How you vote matters so please get informed and consider the real consequences rather than the claims of radicals.

  2. When you refer to those of us concerned about the environment as “cultists,” you dismiss the very real, well-grounded concerns of very many people, backed with a great deal of scientific evidence of dangerous, accelerating change, with no reference to facts or anything said in the article.

    “Crush the lives”? – By halting a project which “The state attorneys general claim that TC Energy has not demonstrated the long-term demand for the increase in gas, and that the project is counter to the region’s climate laws”? It’s hard to find much life-crushing in that.

    Real consequences? “The expansion of the GTN Xpress would result in an additional 3.47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being released for at least the next 30 years, according to a joint filing opposing the pipeline that was submitted to the federal commission in August 2022 by the three state attorneys general.” Oh THOSE consequences!

    Please provide some actual facts, not just radical assertions.

  3. Here is the thing. It is doubtful since this is a Federal deal that Biden who is not doing well in the polls and infact Trump is leading in so many swing states that it would be risky for Biden to do much about this. After we see the outcome of both State for Governor (which is also a bit up for grabs by a Republican in November of 2024) and the national election makes me think that neither Biden or Federal Courts will go for this regardless of our state laws. I don’t have a real opinion on the need for this pipeline and yes, I get it that we do have a heavy emphasis on clean energy etc. I support lots of environmental reform but remember laws and bills can be changed with a different party in power. I do applaud much of WA states attempts but some are harmful to citizens too. Go too far and you lose those votes too. This article is a wait and see for 2024 Federal election results. I think. They can challenge in Federal Court, but I don’t know I don’t see our state winning that one. With this stuff Federal makes the decisions. We need Federal Grants here for many things too. Caution maybe advised for now??

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