Inside Scoop on Latest Fracked Gas Threat

TC Energy is full steam ahead with plans to significantly expand the volume of fracked gas it plans to send down its Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) pipeline. Not so fast.

January 26, 2022

Major West Coast Pipeline Seeks to Expand, Despite Clear Regional Shift Away from Fracked Gas

By Erin Saylor, Staff Attorney

Person holding a "No Fracked Gas" protest sign

In the past two years, both Washington and Oregon have taken major steps to curb our region’s reliance on climate polluting fracked gas. In 2019, Washington state passed the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) which commits the state to an electricity supply completely free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. In 2021, Oregon followed suit by signing into law legislation that requires the state’s electric grid to be 100% fossil-free by 2040—the most aggressive timeline for a clean energy transition in the country. State agencies and public utility commissions in both states are also studying the future of the gas industry in our region. As our society moves towards electrification and away from fossil fuels, it’s clear that our reliance on gas to generate electricity and heat our homes is moving towards obsolescence. 

Yet, against this backdrop, TC Energy is full steam ahead with plans to expand its Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) pipeline by 250,000 dekatherms per day (Dth/d). For context, one dekatherm would provide enough gas to fully service five average-sized households; so TC Energy’s expansion is equivalent to the amount of gas necessary to service 1.2 million households each day. That’s an awful lot of gas to be piping into a region that is clearly moving away from its reliance on fracked gas. 

The Climate Crisis Demands We Move Away From Fracked Gas

The climate impacts of fracked gas are well documented. In the short term, methane leakage from pipelines and other equipment—not to mention pollution from the fracking process—is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide with respect to climate impacts. Which is why Columbia Riverkeeper is working hard to fight TC Energy’s plans to lock our region into decades more reliance on fracked gas. 

TC Energy’s Expansion is Not in the Public Interest

TC Energy plans to achieve its expansion by building at least one new compressor station in Morrow County, Oregon, and upgrading three other compressors and associated equipment along the length of its system. Before TC Energy can break ground on its expansion project, it must obtain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 

A central part of FERC’s review involves an analysis of whether the proposed project is in the public interest. Considering Oregon and Washington’s clear desire to move away from fossil fuel use, it seems like a no-brainer that a major pipeline expansion project is not in the public interest. 

An expansion project of this magnitude would not only lock our region into at least 30 years of additional reliance on fracked gas, but it also creates the potential for ratepayers to be on the hook to pay for the project if the pipeline company ultimately abandons the project when demand inevitably falls. 

TC Energy is Not Telling FERC the Whole Story

Our take: TC Energy is attempting to hide the full scope of its expansion plan from FERC. Instead of filing one application to cover the full scope of the project, TC Energy has filed multiple, smaller, applications for individual pieces of its plan. This approach makes it harder for FERC to understand and assess the full extent and environmental impact of TC Energy’s plans. And that’s a big problem when it comes to environmental and public health reviews required by federal law.

We Won’t Go Down Without a Fight!

Riverkeeper has been closely tracking the FERC process and has submitted multiple sets of comments to the Commission urging FERC to require TC Energy to disclose the full scope of its proposed project. This expansion project is clearly not in the public interest, and we’re working hard to make sure that FERC sees that. Stay tuned!

About Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN):

GTN, which is wholly owned by TC Pipelines, LP, operates a 1,353 mile long interstate natural gas pipeline system that transports West Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) and Rocky Mountain-source natural gas to third-party natural gas pipelines and markets in Washington, Oregon, and California. It originates near Kingsgate, British Columbia and terminates near Malin, OR with an average design capacity of 2,900 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d). It connects to the Foothills pipeline in Canada and the Tuscarora pipeline in Northern California. Over 50% of the pipeline’s capacity is currently subscribed under long-term contracts, the majority of which mature between 2023 and 2028. TC Energy has proposed a compression-only expansion of its system—referred to as the GTN XPress project—which would increase the volume of gas moving through the pipeline by 250,000 Dth/d.