Federal regulators have given the green light to the controversial expansion of the Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) pipeline in the Pacific Northwest, causing a lot of objections focused on environmental issues and climate change.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted in favor of the GTN Xpress expansion project, sparking strong opposition from environmental groups and West Coast officials who had long been critical of the proposal.
The GTN Xpress project seeks to increase the capacity of the existing Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline, which stretches through the states of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. This expansion will facilitate the transportation of approximately 150 million cubic feet (4.2 million cubic meters) of natural gas per day.
The approved plan includes modifications to three compressor stations along the pipeline route. These stations, located in Kootenai County, Idaho; Walla Walla County, Washington; and Sherman County, Oregon, play a critical role in regulating gas pressure and flow over long distances within the pipeline.
Audrey Leonard, a staff attorney for the environmental nonprofit Columbia Riverkeeper, strongly criticized the decision, describing it as a "rubber stamp for unnecessary fracked gas in the Northwest." She accused the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of dismissing input from U.S. senators, governors, state attorneys general, tribes, and concerned members of the public.
Leonard emphasized the potential risks associated with the aging pipeline, originally constructed in the 1960s. She pointed out that any spills or explosions could have severe consequences for the environment and heighten the wildfire risk in the dry regions through which the pipeline passes. "An explosion of that scale in eastern Washington or eastern Oregon would be catastrophic," she warned.
Columbia Riverkeeper plans to challenge the regulators' decision and will submit a petition for a rehearing. In response, TC Energy defended the GTN Xpress project, asserting its importance in meeting consumer demand and welcoming the approval in an email statement.
The GTN pipeline is owned by TC Energy, headquartered in Calgary, Canada, which also previously owned the now-abandoned Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.