FERC-Approved GTN Xpress Faces Challenges

Resistance Building to FERC Fracked Gas Expansion Decision

November 21, 2023

Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate Challenge FERC Approval of GTN Xpress

by Dan Serres, Advocacy Director

Today (November 21, 2023), Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate filed a Petition for Rehearing, urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) to reconsider its approval of the GTN Xpress fracked gas pipeline expansion. Our petition argues that FERC violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Natural Gas Act.

Our arguments against FERC’s approval of the GTN Xpress fracked gas project involve environmental and public safety concerns. The project would cause an increase of 3.47 million tons of climate pollution each year, comparable to the emissions from multiple fossil fuel power plants. Critically, FERC chose to overlook a significant portion of the environmental impact, prompting dissent from FERC Commissioner Clements, who criticized the majority’s assertion that there are no acceptable tools for assessing the significance of greenhouse gas emissions.

GTN Xpress’ fossil fuel pollution and climate change would disproportionately impact marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, youth, and those with lower incomes. With the Pacific Northwest already experiencing severe climate events such as wildfires, droughts, and flooding, we must swiftly transition away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of climate change—effects that disproportionately burden at-risk communities and people. 

Our petition also highlights significant public safety risks. TC Energy has had two major pipeline failures in the past year, an issue FERC did not meaningfully address. FERC’s refusal to thoroughly review the details of TC Energy’s safety failures raises substantial concerns about the potential risks from the aging GTN gas pipeline system, which traverses neighborhoods and fire-prone rural areas.

Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate brought this Petition for Rehearing. We are represented by attorneys with Crag Law Center, Earthjustice, and Columbia Riverkeeper. A broad coalition of over 30 groups supports this legal action.

FERC’s decision will not be the final word on the GTN Xpress project. Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate firmly believe that the states of Washington, Oregon, and California should also challenge FERC’s decision. Our commitment to protecting our communities, the environment, and our shared future remains steadfast.

What happens next?
FERC may act on the rehearing request within 30 days. At the same time, two of the five commission seats on the FERC are awaiting appointments from the Biden administration.

Stay tuned for more about the region-wide effort to stop climate-changing fracked gas pollution and TC Energy’s risky plan to expand the GTN pipeline system.


Media Contacts: 
Hannah Sohl, Executive Director, Rogue Climate: (541) 840-1065 
Audrey Leonard, Staff Attorney, Columbia Riverkeeper: (541) 399-4775

Groups Challenge FERC Approval of GTN Xpress, File Request for Rehearing

Grassroots Groups File Challenge to FERC’s Decision Approving Controversial Fracked Gas Expansion.

Washington, D.C. (November 21, 2023)—Groups opposing the GTN Xpress fracked gas expansion filed a request for rehearing urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reconsider and withdraw its decision approving the controversial project. The GTN Xpress proposal would push more fracked gas into the Northwest through the aging GTN pipeline and generate more climate pollution each year than several fossil fuel power plants. 

In recent months, over two dozen grassroots organizations called on FERC to deny the GTN Xpress project.

States opposing the GTN Xpress project are also expected to file a request for rehearing. In October, Washington Governor Jay Inslee objected to FERC’s decision, and Oregon Governor Tina Kotek released a short statement calling FERC’s decision “disastrous” while committing to evaluate ways Oregon could appeal.

The coalition opposing GTN XPress highlighted key reasons why FERC should reconsider.

“FERC failed to resolve critical questions raised by states, senators, and thousands of people across the Northwest. In the process, FERC violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Natural Gas Act,” said Audrey Leonard, Staff Attorney of Columbia Riverkeeper. “The GTN Xpress project is unnecessary and destructive. FERC must reconsider or risk facing a challenge in federal court.” 

“Fossil fuels accelerate the impacts of climate change and are responsible for the majority of the world’s climate pollution, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color, youth, and people who have lower incomes. FERC’s decision to ignore these impacts is unconscionable,” said Hannah Sohl, Executive Director with Rogue Climate.

“Our communities are experiencing accelerated climate change impacts such as frequent drought and summers of smoke,” said Satya Austin-Opper, of 350 Deschutes, based in Central Oregon. “We support this challenge whole-heartedly to protect the communities where TC Energy operates the aging GTN pipeline.” 

“The approved expansion of the GTN pipeline is indefensible and we stand by Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate in this action to challenge FERC’s decision and do what is right for the people and the planet,” said Marc Yaggi, CEO of Waterkeeper Alliance.

“As recent reports indicate that the world is on track to produce far more oil, gas and coal than would be consistent with safe levels of warming, this project takes our region far from where we need to be in terms of creating a safer world for our children and grandchildren,” said Selden Prentice of 350 Seattle. 

“Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light affirms the dignity of people and the preciousness of waters, air, and lands, rendered more vulnerable by their proximity to the GTN Xpress pipeline’s route. We stand with Tribal partners and people of faith and conscience to protect our communities from real risk of increased harms from pipeline expansion. These harms would intensify regionally and globally, on First Nations’ lands, along the pipeline route, and in global climate disruption from extraction, leakage, delivery, and burning of fracked, fossil gas. Further, schools, homes, and community gathering places are very near the pipeline, including communities suffering from environmental injustice, and in solidarity, we give our full support for reversing FERC’s decision to approve GTN Xpress expansion,” said Sarah Robinson of Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light. 

“FERC’s October 19 decision to approve a certificate of public convenience and necessity for GTN Xpress jeopardizes the health, safety, and local economies of communities around the decades-old GTN pipeline, compressors, and source wells, and burdens nearby residents and utility ratepayers with the costs of unneeded, additional, fracked gas,” said Helen Yost, a volunteer organizer of Wild Idaho Rising Tide. “As demonstrated by five dangerous Northwest gas pipeline ruptures, service outages, and wildfires since August 15, in or close to the infrastructure targeted for expansion and among dozens of public protests, FERC has failed to consider the environmental injustices of GTN Xpress and decreasing regional demand for its climate-warming methane.”

Organizations opposing GTN Xpress also decried FERC’s rubber stamp approach to major fracked gas expansions. Two seats on FERC are up for appointment by President Joe Biden.

“The climate consequences of FERC’s approach to projects like GTN Xpress remains out of touch with the harsh realities we face, and the bold efforts people in communities all across our region are undertaking to curb climate-changing pollution,” said Dineen O’Rourke, of 350PDX. “We need fundamental change at FERC: they are locking in climate disaster. President Biden must appoint people to FERC who understand the challenges we face and respond appropriately.”

The controversy over GTN Xpress shows that FERC is currently incapable of addressing climate change. FERC Commissioner Clements wrote a separate opinion about GTN Xpress, stating that “the Commission’s approach is becoming increasingly untenable.” And Senator Merkley called for “fundamental reform” of FERC, noting that the agency has approved over 99 percent of fracked gas projects that have come before it.

The GTN Xpress project continues to face opposition, including from: U.S. Senators Merkley, Wyden, Cantwell, Murray, and Padilla; Congressional Representatives Blumenauer, Salinas and Jayapal; the Attorneys General of Oregon, Washington, and California; the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission; Governors Jay Inslee and Tina Kotek; nine Oregon and Washington state legislators; dozens of grassroots organizations; and thousands of community members in the Northwest. 

FERC has 30 days to respond to the rehearing request. If FERC ignores or denies the request, Columbia Riverkeeper and Rogue Climate can challenge FERC’s decision in federal court. The groups are represented by attorneys with Crag Law Center, Earthjustice, Columbia Riverkeeper, and attorney Tonia Moro.