Science & Environment

Washington governor, environmental groups push for rehearing on Northwest pipeline expansion

By Erik Neumann (Jefferson Public Radio)
Nov. 22, 2023 11:55 p.m.
Gas Transmission Northwest XPress project map.

Gas Transmission Northwest XPress project map.

TC Energy

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and two environmental nonprofits in Oregon announced on Wednesday they are requesting a rehearing of a plan to expand a natural gas pipeline in the Pacific Northwest.


The recently approved GTN XPress pipeline project would increase the capacity to ship natural gas from British Columbia to the Oregon-California border.

A request for rehearing was first proposed by Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate. The groups are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review its Oct. 23 approval of the pipeline expansion to take into consideration what they say are conflicts with the National Environmental Policy Act and Natural Gas Act.

The proposed project from TC Energy would involve installing three new compressor stations along the pipeline route to increase capacity to ship natural gas to the West Coast states and Idaho.

According to Columbia Riverkeeper staff attorney Audrey Leonard, FERC’s environmental impact statement for the plan undercounted the upstream and downstream emissions facilitated by the pipeline. And she said the commission didn’t weigh whether the project is necessary and will provide a true public benefit when taking into consideration existing policies requiring West Coast states to reduce fossil fuel consumption.


“Our argument is that FERC did not do enough to calculate these emissions and make a determination about how those emissions are going to affect the climate and the environment,” Leonard said.

Representatives from the FERC did not respond to an interview request.

The pipeline is expected to increase natural gas capacity by 150 million standard cubic feet per day, or the same as adding 754,000 cars on the road each year until 2052, according to a 2022 statement opposing the project from Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“This FERC decision totally ignores both the legal requirements in the State of Washington and our vision to decarbonize our economy and wean ourselves off of dangerous, toxic methane gas,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Inslee said FERC’s approval violates the spirit and intent of several rules in Washington State, including a law committing the state to transition to clean electricity by 2045 and building codes that require new commercial and residential construction to have heat pumps, which Inslee said, eliminates the need for natural gas.

A statement provided by a spokesperson with the pipeline operator, TC Energy, said the pipeline is warranted because of rising energy prices in the Pacific Northwest and California.

“Demand for natural gas transportation service on the existing GTN system has grown by more than 26 percent since 2014, while access to lower cost supplies has been constrained. This market dynamic has led to unnecessarily high energy prices and strained reliability for consumers in the region,” the statement reads.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has 30 days to respond to the requests for a rehearing.