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OK of disputed NW gas pipeline expansion brings dismay from activists and senators, cheers from Chavez-DeRemer

(Update: Adding video, KTVZ.COM Poll)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Federal regulators’ approval Thursday of a controversial natural gas pipeline expansion whose route extends through Central Oregon brought reactions of dismay and vows to challenge the decision from environmentalists and lawmakers, and applause from Rep. Chavez DeRemer, R-O5.

Here are those statements, in full:

FERC Approves GTN Xpress Despite Opposition from Communities, Tribes, U.S. Senators, West Coast Governors

Grassroots Opposition Groups Vow to Challenge FERC’s Decision Which Comes in the Wake of Two Recent Major TC Energy Pipeline Failures

Bend, Ore. (October 19, 2023)—Local and national organizations leading the fight against the controversial GTN Xpress Project blasted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for approving TC Energy’s request to push more fracked gas into the Northwest through the aging GTN pipeline. 

Despite opposition from U.S. Senators Merkley, Wyden, Cantwell, Murray, Padilla; Congressman Blumenauer and Congresswoman Salinas and Jayapal; the Attorneys General of Oregon, Washington, and California; the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission; Governors Jay Inslee and Tina Kotek; four state representatives; dozens of grassroots organizations; and thousands of community members in the Northwest, FERC rubberstamped TC Energy’s GTN Xpress Project.

FERC’s approval came without any meaningful acknowledgment of TC Energy’s latest, fiery pipeline explosion in Strasburg, Virginia in July 2023. Late last year, another TC Energy pipeline failed and spilled 588,000 gallons of crude oil into a Kansas creek. A broad coalition of organizations had called on FERC to consider the safety implications of pushing more fracked gas in a decades-old pipeline system, but FERC ignored them.

Members of the coalition opposing GTN XPress immediately announced their intention to challenge FERC’s approval by filing a Petition for Rehearing. 

“FERC failed to listen to Senators, Governors, State Attorneys General, Tribes, and the public in its rubber stamp of unnecessary fracked gas in the Northwest,” said Audrey Leonard, Staff Attorney of Columbia Riverkeeper. “The Commission’s decision violates the public interest and common sense, and we will file a petition for rehearing challenging this project. Since the analysis for this project was published, two major TC Energy pipelines have failed, causing safety hazards and spilling fossil fuel. If this were to happen in dry, rural, fire-prone lands or in the residential areas where TC Energy’s GTN pipeline is located, it would be catastrophic.”

“In recent months, thousands of people have urged FERC to take seriously the public safety, climate, and environmental justice implications of this proposal, and they failed to do so,” said Hannah Sohl, Executive Director with Rogue Climate. “FERC’s decision to rush this decision in the immediate wake of another TC Energy pipeline failure and fire is extremely concerning.”

“The GTN Xpress proposal would lock in a huge new influx of fracked gas for decades at the very moment that our communities are experiencing accelerated climate change impacts such as frequent drought and summers of smoke,” said Satya Austin-Opper, of 350 Deschutes. “And this pipeline runs right through our community. I’m worried about how devastating the impact would be if the pipeline were to fail, which is certainly a possibility given the unsafe track record of TC Energy’s other aging pipelines.” 

“FERC’s decision to certify this project goes against the health and well-being of Washingtonians and the residents of the greater Pacific Northwest Region,” says Max Savishinsky, Executive Director of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. “This pipeline presents immediate risks to health and safety through leaks and explosion risk as well as long term consequences to our health through the exacerbation of climate change.” 

“Given the recent news from the IPCC that the world needs to peak GHG emissions before 2025 at the very latest, nearly halve GHG emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero CO2 emissions around mid-century, the proposed GTN XPress project would be a step in the completely wrong direction,” said Selden Prentice, federal policy lead for 350 Seattle. “This project must be stopped!”

“TC Energy’s proposal to push additional methane gas through a six-decade-old pipeline threatens communities across Idaho and the Northwest,” said community organizer Helen Yost of Wild Idaho Rising Tide. “FERC mostly ignored the health and safety impacts of GTN pipeline expansion under the rural agricultural and public recreation areas that sustain the Idaho economy. Considering TC Energy’s massive pipeline ruptures from increased volumes and its negligent safety record, Idahoans cannot trust GTN Xpress to responsibly provide energy that benefits our growing population.”

“Today’s decision to approve the GTN XPress expansion project is a major disrespect of and threat to our communities and our climate, and goes against the will of thousands of people and elected officials across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and California,” said Dineen O’Rourke, Campaign Manager at 350PDX. “The GTN XPress pipeline expansion is the opposite of what the Northwest needs — we need investments in cleaner and safer energy, not an increase of polluting and explosive fracked gas through aging pipelines.”

“With this decision to approve the GTN Xpress expansion, the Biden administration is again failing on its promises to protect environmental justice communities and the climate. Any expansion of fossil fuels is incompatible with a livable future,” said Oil Change International’s US Program Co-Manager, Allie Rosenbluth. “Oregon and Washington must continue to rise to the challenge and safeguard the health and well-being of communities and the climate by challenging FERC’s approval of this unnecessary and dangerous gas expansion.”

“Sacred texts are full of people wondering how long pain and suffering will continue for the most vulnerable. Today, when FERC chose the path of profit over people, these wonderings were repeated yet again. FERC’s decision risks community safety, threatens sacred lands, playgrounds, community centers and more, and goes in the opposite direction of clean, sustainable energy for all,” said Rev. AC Churchill, Executive Director of Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light. “We must reject proposals that willingly sacrifice the health and well-being of our communities and, instead, work towards a clean energy infrastructure that ensures equal access and deep respect for all, particularly our most vulnerable in the human family.” 

"FERC’s alarming decision to approve the GTN Xpress Project blatantly disregards concerns from community advocates and hundreds of health professionals in Oregon and within our region.” Said David De La Torre, Healthy Climate Program Director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. “This irresponsible decision will have implications on the health and wellbeing of communities, as well as lasting impact on generations to come. As wildfires and extreme heat events continue to increase in frequency, straining health services and the wellbeing of Oregonians, it is imperative that we not continue to approve proposals that accelerate the climate crisis. We don’t need more fracked gas being pumped through our state and communities.”   

“Devastating climate change impacts around the world, TC Energy’s July 2023 gas line explosion in Virginia, and record heat across the U.S. throughout this summer capped by a record-breaking September are but the latest examples of how we should be switching to renewable energy instead of locking in increased greenhouse gas emissions and projects that threaten the safety of our communities,” said Marc Yaggi, CEO of Waterkeeper Alliance. “The approved expansion of the GTN pipeline is unconscionable and we stand by our Coalition partners’ demand for FERC to reverse course and do what is right for the people and the planet.”

Groups and individuals who intervened in the FERC proceeding, including Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate, will file a Petition for Rehearing.



Statement from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.:

“Today’s vote rubber-stamps a pipeline expansion that’s unnecessary, unwanted and unconscionable when it’s urgent business to fight the climate crisis. This pipeline cutting right through the heart of rural Oregon between Umatilla and Jackson counties will increase rates for consumers and enrich a Canadian company with a troubling safety record. I’ll keep looking for every avenue both to battle this monstrosity and to move forward with clean energy that fits with our state’s climate goals.”


Merkley: FERC Continues to Rubber Stamp Fossil Gas Projects without Any Regard for Our Future

Washington, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved TC Energy’s proposal for a major expansion of methane gas infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest:

“Today’s decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rubber stamp the GTN Xpress pipeline is outrageous. According to FERC’s own analysis the expanded pipeline will cause $8.8 billion in damages, and contribute 1.9 million metric tons of carbon per year in pollution to the Pacific Northwest. That is the equivalent to adding 644,000 gasoline powered cars to the road each year. And of course those numbers are misleadingly low because FERC systematically minimizes the climate chaos effects of fossil gas projects.

“Even worse, six senators, two governors, and three attorneys general have made it crystal clear to FERC that the GTN Xpress will undercut the West Coast’s climate laws by adding capacity at a time when our states are mandating a phase down of fossil gas. There is no need for the GTN Xpress expansion because we are committed to moving away from fossil gas. And FERC is forcing fossil gas into our states so that a foreign company can make money by selling more fracked Canadian fossil gas.

“Unfortunately FERC’s approval is not a surprise because the Commission is captured by the fossil fuel industry. There is no other explanation for how FERC could approve over 99% of the fossil fuel projects it reviews in the face of climate catastrophe. FERC needs fundamental reform.

“Today’s decision must be a wake-up call to everyone who cares about our climate. FERC may be an obscure federal agency to most people, but there are important decisions on the horizon at FERC that will determine whether the world meets its climate goals. With projects such as the Calcasieu Pass 2 LNG export terminal on the horizon, right now, the signs aren’t good.”

Merkley has relentlessly stood in opposition to the GTN Xpress pipeline expansion. This week he led West Coast Senators in warning FERC against approving the flawed and unwanted pipeline expansion, and previously led letters  that highlight how the proposed expansion is not in the public interest and how TC Energy has failed to demonstrate adequate need for the project.


Following Push from Chavez-DeRemer, Biden Administration Allows Key Energy Project to Move Forward 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a certificate that will allow the Gas Transmission Northwest XPress Project (GTNXP) to move forward. The natural gas project, which would increase the supply of low-cost energy to households in Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest, was given a green light after Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05) led a bicameral group of her colleagues earlier this month in urging FERC to act without delay.

“I’m glad the commission is finally allowing this much-needed energy project to move forward,” Chavez-DeRemer said. “GTNXP will support domestic energy production, which boosts our energy security while also helping lower utility bills for Oregon families. Additionally, utilizing natural gas will continue to be important as we work to meet carbon reduction goals. Although it’s overdue, this decision will improve America’s energy independence, lower costs for families, and help maintain a cleaner environment. It’s the right decision.”

The project will upgrade existing compressor stations to increase GTN’s capacity by 150,000 dekatherms per day, which would help meet the energy needs of communities in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and California. According to FERC’s Final Environmental Impact Assessment (FEIS), the project would not have an adverse impact on the environment. Additionally, utilizing natural gas instead of coal to generate electricity will continue to help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Learn more about the letter Chavez-DeRemer led earlier this month by clicking HERE.


Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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