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

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

By: Waterkeeper Alliance

Photo by By Reinhard Tiburzy/Shutterstock

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

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.

“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.”

“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,” said 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.”

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