Pipeline expansion would increase natural gas flow in northwest

A Canadian company is proposing a project to increase the capacity of its pipeline carrying natural gas through the Northwest.

TC Energy wants to modify compressor stations along the Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline in Oregon, Washington and Idaho to move about 150,000 additional decatherms of gas through the region per day, enough to meet the daily energy needs of nearly half a million average American homes.

The company says in its application for approval with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the project is necessary to meet the needs of Northwest energy consumers, but opponents of the expansion say it ignores the larger trend broad towards renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectricity. .

Erin Saylor, an attorney for the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper, says the region is moving away from its dependence on natural gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

“These pipeline projects typically have an expected lifespan of 30 years or more,” Saylor said, “which means this project will lock our region into a continued addiction to fracked gas, whether we like it or not.”

A map created by TC Energy depicts the route of the pipeline the company is proposing to expand.

TC Energy

Natural gas has made up a much larger share of Oregon’s electric mix in recent years, as the state phases out coal. Natural gas powered about a quarter of Oregon’s electricity consumption in 2019, up from just 12% in 2012.

When burned for power, natural gas generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal, according to the US Energy Information Administration, which partly explains its appeal. However, methane leaks associated with the production, transportation and storage of natural gas can quickly erase these benefits. Methane is itself an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

Oregon and Washington have each recently passed legislation to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity providers. Electricity providers in Oregon have until 2040 to phase out their emissions, while utilities in Washington have until 2045 to become carbon-free.

“We expect a significant drop in gas demand,” Saylor said, “which means there won’t be a need for all that gas that they plan to push into our area.”

TC Energy did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

Company Seeks FERC Approval to Upgrade Compressor Stations in Sherman County, Oregon; across the Columbia River in Walla Walla County, Washington; and further north in Kootenai County, Idaho.

In its application, TC Energy says the project will supply gas to meet “increasing market demand driven by residential, commercial and industrial customers in the Pacific Northwest.” TC Energy is the parent company of Gas Transmission Northwest LLC, or GTN, which owns the pipeline of the same name.

“The benefits of GTN’s proposed project far outweigh its potential negative impacts,” the application reads.

TC Energy urged FERC to approve the project by Oct. 14.

The agency must determine whether expanding the pipeline is in the public interest in order to approve the project. This week, FERC updated the policies guiding these decisions on natural gas projects.

The changes allow the agency to take a deeper look at a project’s contributions to climate change as well as its potential impact on landowners and environmental justice.

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