A Canadian company is proposing a project to increase the capacity of its pipeline carrying natural gas through the Northwest.
TC Energy wants edit compressor stations along the Northwest Gas Transmission Pipeline in Oregon, Washington and Idaho to get about 150,000 additional decatherms of gas flowing 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.”
Natural gas made up a much larger share of Oregon’s electric mix in recent years as the state gradually phased out coal. Natural gas powered about a quarter of Oregon’s electricity consumption in 2019, up from just 12% in 2012.
When burned for energy, natural gas generates less greenhouse gas emissions than coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which is part of why its appeal has grown. However, methane leaks associated with the production, transportation and storage of natural gas can quickly erase these benefits. Methane is itself a extremely potent greenhouse gas.
Oregon and Washington have each recently surpassed legislation drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity suppliers. 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 his application, TC Energy says the project will supply gas to meet “increased 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 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.