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Oregon residents call for more input on Northwest pipeline expansion 

 A screenshot from Senator Jeff Merkley's testimony on Monday night.
A screenshot from Senator Jeff Merkley's testimony on Monday night.

Climate activists hosted a “People’s Hearing” in Phoenix, OR, on Monday night to record video testimony opposing a potential natural gas pipeline expansion in the Pacific Northwest.

The event was hosted by Southern Oregon advocacy nonprofit Rogue Climate and is one part of a plan to oppose the pipeline expansion that’s being considered by federal regulators.

The Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline has been in operation since 1961, transporting Canadian natural gas to Washington, Oregon and California via a system that is over 1,300 miles long and runs from British Columbia south to Malin, OR, near the California border.

Now its owner, Canadian company TC Energy, wants to upgrade the system to increase its capacity by 150 million standard cubic feet per day. These changes would include a software upgrade in Idaho, uprating compressors in Washington and Oregon so they could handle a higher horsepower and installing a new compressor in Washington.

TC Energy said this expansion is necessary to meet growing demand for natural gas.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted written comments on the project, but Maig Tinnin, Rogue Climate’s Rogue Valley coordinator, said the regulator didn’t do any “meaningful outreach” about it.

“There hasn’t been a process in the past where they’ve done hearings, and really that needs to change,” Tinnin said. “We’re trying to kind of set a new precedent with FERC.”

So activists plan to send Monday night’s recorded testimony to FERC to demonstrate their opposition to the project. There were a handful of attendees in person and over 100 attendees online.

“It’s really hard to hear that people in D.C., a commission of individuals, is going to make a decision about our future without our opportunity to even say what we think about that and give direct feedback,” Tinnin said.

 This map depicts the GTN pipeline and the proposed expansions.
Rogue Climate
This map depicts the GTN pipeline and the proposed expansions.

According to a spokesperson for FERC, "the project is pending before the Commission, we are prohibited from discussing this matter ... We cannot speculate as to when the Commission will make its decision."

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley also spoke against the expansion during Monday’s community hearing, saying, “The last thing we should do is continue building more fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“This is an unnecessary and it’s an unwanted project. It does the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve in Oregon,” he said.

Merkley and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden have also written about their opposition, saying the expansion would “undermine efforts by Oregon to lead the fight against climate chaos.”

FERC hosted previous in-person hearings for the proposed Jordan Cove LNG pipeline that would have spanned southwest Oregon and which was eventually abandoned in late 2021.

A November Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from FERC found that the project’s impacts on the environment would not be significant. The report stated that “Climate change impacts [from this project] are not characterized in this EIS as significant or insignificant.”

But the Attorneys General from Oregon, California and Washington have all voiced their opposition to it. They estimate the expansion will add 3.47 million metric tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere per year, for at least 30 years.

“If it’s approved, it would be a huge barrier to Oregon or Washington or California meeting the climate goals that we have,” Tinnin said.

TC Energy is known for its Keystone XL pipeline, a project that drew massive protests and was eventually abandoned. The southern portion of the Keystone pipeline spilled thousands of barrels of oil in Kansas in December.
Copyright 2023 Jefferson Public Radio. To see more, visit Jefferson Public Radio.

Jane Vaughan