Pacific Northwest Gas Proposal Highlights FERC Budget Act

The Northwest Xpress gas transmission project appears to be uncontroversial TC Energy When the Canadian energy company first proposed it to regulators in October 2021.

The project consists of upgrades to three gas compression stations to flow more gas along an existing pipeline system that has been in operation since 1962 in the Pacific Northwest. This would provide more fuel for customers in California, where gas prices rose during the last winter heating season.

But environmental groups, U.S. senators and attorneys general in three states have seen it rely on fossil fuels for 30 years as the region pursues ambitious renewable energy goals to decarbonize the power grid.

Proposed more than two years ago, the pipeline upgrades project has become the longest-awaited project of its kind at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — and a case study of how U.S. regulators balance state renewable energy goals with their costs to consumers.

Map provided by TC Energy

The committee included the project on the agenda of its meeting on October 19, but this does not guarantee its approval. The project was among six gas-specific items scrapped from the agenda at the committee’s July meeting, raising concerns the committee was deadlocked over how to consider greenhouse gas emissions.

Four of those withdrawn projects were eventually approved last month, but GTN Xpress and WBI Energy’s Wahpeton expansion project in North Dakota did not make the cut. FERC does not discuss internal deliberations, so it is unclear why decisions on the projects were delayed.

“The GTN Xpress project will play a critical role in offsetting rising energy prices and supporting renewable electricity development in the Pacific Northwest and California,” said Michael Taddeo, a spokesman for TC Energy. “The project has strong regional support, as evidenced by long-term agreements entered into by local utilities and support expressed by elected officials, labor groups and consumers.”

Residents and environmental advocates have expressed concern about public safety from gas pipelines, while also saying consumers should not have to pay for fossil fuel expansion. Sense. Jeff Merkley And Ron Wyden, both Democrats from Oregon, wrote letters urging FERC to reject the project, including one sent days before it pulled the project from its July meeting. Protesters have rallied outside FERC meetings for months.

In August 2022, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Join California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the Attorney General of Washington Bob Ferguson in Submit petitions The committee rejected the request. Prosecutors general questioned the need for more natural gas and said it would result in 3.47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. FERC, in its final environmental impact statement, came up with an estimate of about 1.9 million metric tons of reasonably expected emissions.

“While states are working hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, FERC should not stand in their way,” said Dan Seres, advocacy director for Columbia Riverkeeper, a Portland-Ore.-based organization that works to protect, restore and care for the Columbia River. .

“You have a region and states that are working hard to try to reduce gas use and the pollution that comes with gas use, and you have a Biden administration saying it takes environmental and climate justice seriously — and it looks like FERC is on the verge of endorsing this.” “Project,” Sirius said.

The project enters into broader discussions about the pace of clean energy deployment. In California, state officials have aggressively rolled out renewables over the years, but more recently have relied on supplies of natural gas and nuclear power to keep the power grid stable.

California Democratic leaders backed away from the state’s plans to close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and voted in August to keep three natural gas-fired power plants in Southern California operating through 2026.

Last month, state officials approved expanding natural gas storage capacity at Aliso Canyon, site of the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history in 2015.

Natural gas prices rose so much that in February 2023, the Governor of California announced that… Gavin Newsom (d) Urge FERC to investigate market manipulation by gas providers. While Newsom did not mention GTN Xpress in the letter, TC Energy’s CEO cited the governor’s concerns about rates in a letter to FERC last month about consumer need for the project.

A spokesperson for Newsom, reached this month, declined to comment on whether the governor supports or opposes GTN Xpress.

Neil Chatterjee, the former Republican head of FERC, said approval of the project would address the high natural gas prices that Newsom is concerned about.

“This is a small project and should not be subjected to this kind of delay,” Chatterjee said. “That’s what FERC is for — to ease constraints in the system and help achieve lower rates.”

“If politics are the source of the delay, the FCC should look beyond that,” he said.

The GTN Xpress system includes modifications to three existing compressor stations in Kootenai County, Idaho, Walla Walla County, Washington, and Sherman County, Oregon. The project will produce an additional 150,000 decatherms of energy per day on the system.

The company’s application to FERC plans to make the system upgrades by next month. If the authority approves the project this month, the project will not be completed until the next winter heating season.

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