Despite opposition from environmental groups and West Coast authorities who claimed it would undermine climate change goals and increase the risk of wildfires, federal regulators have approved the expansion of the GTN Xpress natural gas pipeline in the Pacific Northwest.
The goal of the GTN Xpress project is to increase the daily amount of gas transmission in the Northwest pipeline by over 150,000,000 cubic feet via the states of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted for the plan.
TC Energy wants to upgrade three compressor stations to keep gas pressure and flow steady along the pipeline’s length.
Calgary, Canada’s TC Energy, owns the pipeline; they were also responsible for the defunct Keystone XL oil pipeline. Concerns have been raised concerning TC Energy’s safety record due to an explosion in Strasburg, Virginia, in July and a spill of approximately 600,000 gallons of bitumen oil in Kansas in December, both of which have been cited by environmentalists and officials opposed to the project.
The 1,377-mile pipeline begins at the Canadian border and continues south through a sliver of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon before meeting a pipeline in California. In addition to Washington and California, Oregon has enacted legislation mandating an all-clean electricity transition by utilities by 2040 and 2045. Democratic state politicians from the remaining states have urged federal lawmakers to reject the proposal.
The draft environmental impact statement prepared by the energy agency for the project was cited by the attorneys general of the three states to support their claim that the project will lead to annual emissions of more than 3.47 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming, for at least the next three decades.
Environmental groups challenged the agency’s projections, but the final ecological assessment reduced that amount by around half. No evidence was shown that this project would considerably raise greenhouse gas emissions, and Energy Agency Chairman Willie Phillips reaffirmed this position following Thursday’s vote.