The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission delayed a decision on TC Energy's Gas Transmission Northwest Xpress pipeline expansion after Oregon's two senators and 26 environmental organizations asked FERC to deny or delay its decision. The Canadian energy company asked FERC for permission to pump an additional 150 million cubic feet per day through the pipeline, which snakes across British Columbia, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California — including east of Bend, where it divides the Stevens Ranch and Stevens Road Tract planned communities.
To increase capacity, TC Energy needs to add three compressor stations to its 61-year-old, 1,377-mile system. The company delivers about a quarter of all natural gas in the United States, and currently the GTN Xpress pipeline pumps about 2.7 billion cubic feet of Canadian methane every day. The proposed expansion has been deliberated for over two years at FERC, receiving substantial political pushback. Last August the Attorneys General in Oregon, Washington and California requested a halt of the pipeline expansion, claiming its environmental impact statement fails to accurately characterize impacts to climate change, and therefore violates the National Environmental Policy Act.
Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) first weighed in to FERC in December, saying the expansion is out of step with federal and state goals on carbon reduction. In their July 26 letter to the commission, the senators argued the expansion is not necessary or beneficial for Oregonians, that an expansion would disproportionately impact communities of color and reiterated that expansion of fossil fuel networks is incompatible with statewide goals.
"There is no clear justification for, or benefit from, GTN Xpress. TC Energy has entered into a precedent agreement with Tourmaline, a Canadian fossil gas producer that is not seeking to serve ratepayers," the senators wrote in a joint statement. "If Tourmaline's uses for the fossil gas are too uncertain to assess their environmental impact, it strains credulity that they could serve as the justification for a pipeline expansion."
The pipeline is supported by some members of Oregon's delegation in Washington, D.C. TC Energy's website highlights support from U.S. Rep Lori Chavez DeRemer (OR-5) and Oregon Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner). Some advocacy groups, such as Oregon Business and Industry and the Northwest Gas Alliance have come out in favor of the project.
"Projects such as GTNXP will help ensure we have the energy needed to grow our economy in a way that is delivered safely and reliably. The project will serve critical needs in meeting residential, commercial and industrial demand for natural gas and renewable natural gas," said Sharla Moffett, senior policy director of Oregon Business and Industry, according to TC Energy's website. "Additionally, TC Energy is actively working to reduce the natural gas carbon intensity for the fuel it delivers."
Cascade Natural Gas Corporation is the only named company that is set to receive any of the gas from the expanded capacity. It agreed to procure about 20 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. It isn't clear where the other 130 million cubic feet will go. Earlier this year the Citizens Utility Board Executive Director Bob Jenks told the Source CNG would struggle to meet state climate goals to reduce emissions by 50% by 2035. Jenks also warned that as natural gas is phased out, the remaining customers will shoulder higher costs as fewer customers pay for the aging pipeline infrastructure.
FERC didn't say when the GTN Xpress would be back on the docket, and that it doesn't comment on internal reasoning for the delay. The environmental groups who oppose the expansion, however, are taking the news optimistically.
"Oregon is already on a path to electrification. If this pipeline expansion went through, it would totally derail the Oregon Climate Plan goals. That's just disastrous, and has a cost of carbon that is $13 billion, and that's using TC energy's own figures. So those are costs that you and I and everyone else would bear, cost of extreme weather, costs to our health and costs from wildfires," said Diane Hodiak, executive director of 350 Deschutes, a nonprofit that organizes against new fossil fuel projects.