350 Seattle and the Stop GTN Xpress Coalition urge Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to heed the warning of the International Energy Agency and oppose the GTN Xpress.
When I heard about the ongoing fires in eastern Canada, and the accompanying smoke that covered much of the U.S. East Coast, I was reminded of the Bob Dylan refrain from “Blowin’ in the Wind,” yet with different words: How many fires will it take ’til we know, that it’s past time to stop burning fossil fuels? Do we need the entire country to be covered in smoke before we take all necessary steps to turn the climate crisis around?
While President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act was a step in the right direction, the International Energy Administration (IEA) has been clear: “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas, and coal.” Yet TC Energy, the company behind the Keystone Pipeline, seeks approval for a new gas project in the Pacific Northwest called the GTN Xpress. The project would increase the amount of gas coming into the region by expanding an existing pipeline.
350 Seattle and the Stop GTN Xpress Coalition urge Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to heed the warning of the IEA and oppose the GTN Xpress.
If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission were to approve the expansion, it would result in more than 3.47 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year—that’s the equivalent of adding 754,000 cars to the road annually.
Here’s the background: GTN’s existing pipeline runs across eastern and southeast Washington, through central Oregon, and into California. The proposed expansion project would push more fracked gas through the existing pipeline by upgrading three existing compressor stations. Compressor stations are fracked gas-powered industrial facilities that control how much gas moves through the pipeline. If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were to approve the expansion, it would result in more than 3.47 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year—that’s the equivalent of adding 754,000 cars to the road annually.
Yet is such a project needed? The answer is an overwhelming no. In a 2022 article, the Sightline Institute analyzed the gas demands of the Northwest in connection with the GTN proposal and concluded that the additional gas is not needed. The article noted that Washington and Oregon will require 100% renewable electricity generation by 2040 and 2045, respectively, meaning that gas will no longer be required for power generation. Additionally, in 2022 Washington passed legislation requiring all-electric heating in new commercial buildings.
Not only is the GTN Xpress unnecessary and bad for the climate, utility customers would likely face increased costs to pay for this expensive infrastructure upgrade. Additionally, nearby communities would see increased air pollution from the compressor stations, as well as face a heightened risk of explosions and fires in the event of an accident. In 2022, the attorneys general of Oregon, Washington, and California made similar arguments against the project in a motion to intervene in the GTN Xpress FERC proceedings.
Opposition to this project is growing. So far, more than 50 local and national organizations ranging from grassroots environmental groups to health professionals have opposed GTN Xpress. In addition to opposition from the attorneys general of Washington, Oregon, and California, several elected representatives from the region have also spoken out against the project; Democratic Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Governor Tina Kotek of Oregon, and Washington’s own Governor Jay Inslee have all expressed opposition to the GTN proposal.
The websites of both Senators Cantwell and Murray indicate that they see themselves as advocates for the environment. If so, they need to stand by their principles and speak out publicly now against the GTN Xpress. The addition of their voices to the growing opposition to the project could make a difference in FERC’s decision making. FERC is expected to approve or deny this project as early as mid-July, 2023.