Sens. Merkley and Wyden

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats, speak ahead of President Joe Biden in Portland, Oregon on October 15, 2022. (Photo: John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

'Listen to Oregon': Merkley, Wyden Urge FERC to Deny Expansion of Gas Pipeline

Both U.S. senators from the state say approval of the GTN Xpress project would be "incompatible with President Biden's pledge" to cut emissions.

U.S. Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden on Monday pressured federal regulators to reject a Canadian company's attempt to expand a fracked gas pipeline, citing President Joe Biden's climate promises, threats to Oregon's frontline communities, and efforts by their state to fight the planetary crisis.

"Rather than helping Americans, GTN Xpress would be supporting a market for dirty fossil gas from a foreign country."

In a letter to the five members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Merkley and Wyden detailed their opposition to TC Energy's Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) Xpress project, which would increase the capacity of a fracked gas pipeline that runs from British Columbia to California, cutting through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

Pointing to Biden's pledge to cut emissions in half by 2030 and FERC's final environmental impact statement (FEIS) that the project would produce 2.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, they argued that "adding new emissions through pipeline expansions like the GTN Xpress is incompatible with President Biden's pledge."

"Approving the GTN Xpress would also undermine efforts by Oregon to lead the fight against climate chaos," their letter continues, citing state efforts to cut planet-heating emissions and invest in renewable energy. "The GTN Xpress would risk the safety of frontline communities and the planet for a project that isn't necessary."

The letter also takes aim at FERC's review of the project:

The GTN Xpress FEIS illustrates flaws in FERC's environmental reviews that lead to systemic undercounting of the climate impacts from pipeline projects. FERC discarded the established and growing body of peer-reviewed, academic literature indicating that supply side policies have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions by not even considering emissions from upstream production. FERC also assumes that fossil gas will be completely combusted without fugitive emissions despite academic literature showing that leaks exist throughout the entire fossil gas supply and distribution chain. FERCs methodology biases its analysis by minimizing the impacts that projects have on the climate.

In the final EIS FERC disregarded the downstream emissions for fossil gas subscribed to by a Canadian fossil gas producer--a third of the total subscribed gas--because FERC claims it is not "reasonably foreseeable" where the fossil gas would be used. FERC took this step despite the fact that no public comment on the [draft EIS] even recommended it. FERC's decision creates a perverse incentive for companies to hide the actual usages of their products in order to hide the full impacts of their project and is a deeply troubling practice.

"We strongly urge FERC to listen to Oregon when it says that the GTN Xpress is incompatible with climate objectives and is not in the public interest," the senators wrote. "Expanding fossil gas through the GTN Xpress will undermine the efforts in Oregon to support a cleaner, safer, and effective alternative to fossil gas. Rather than helping Americans, GTN Xpress would be supporting a market for dirty fossil gas from a foreign country."

Merkley and Wyden's letter comes after green groups and the state attorneys general from California, Oregon, and Washington have spoken out against the project in recent months.

Meanwhile, leading up to a massive oil spill by TC Energy's Keystone pipeline in Kansas earlier this month, the Canadian fossil fuel giant "solicited and authored a letter that Idaho Republican officials submitted to federal regulators urging them to approve the company's proposal to expand natural gas shipments in the Pacific Northwest" with GTN Xpress, according to emails obtained by the watchdog group Energy and Policy Institute via public records requests and exclusively reported on by HuffPost last week.

The outlet noted that the letter authored by the fossil fuel company was signed, wholly or nearly verbatim, by Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little and the state's full congressional delegation--Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo along with Reps. Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson--who are all in the GOP.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.