GTN Xpress Pipeline Protests Meetings & Winter Updates

Protests Planning Meetings

While TC Energy desperately seeks to offload its stranded Canadian gas assets on the Northwest with the GTN Xpress expansion project proposed for the Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) pipeline, and pits elected Idaho politicians against their western Democrat neighbors, dozens of nonprofit organizations are coordinating authentic, public opposition to GTN Xpress.  These community groups, including Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), assert that the project is inconsistent with regional efforts to transition away from reliance on polluting, planet-warming fossil fuels.  Resistance to GTN Xpress continues to grow, as thousands of Northwest residents work together to demand that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) deny this risky plan and responsibly uphold regionally legislated goals for diminishing use of climate-changing, fracked gas.  With a final FERC decision on the project expected as early as March 16 (postponed from the commission’s third Thursday, monthly meeting on February 16), we again invite you and your friends, family, and colleagues to join us in active rejection of this unnecessary fossil fuels invasion of the Northwest, as TC Energy and its subsidiary GTN scheme to increase the volume and pressure in their 62-year-old pipeline, just like TC Energy did in the decade-old Keystone tar sands pipeline, before it burst in Kansas on December 7, 2022.

In preparation for a possible March 16, FERC decision, WIRT and allies in three cities are holding in-person planning meetings to organize the next pipeline protests with eager activists across the inland Northwest.  We hope that you will participate in these gatherings and encourage your trusted comrades to attend.

* Saturday, March 4, at 3 pm at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, Idaho

* Sunday, March 5, at 1 pm at the Community Building, 35 West Main Street in Spokane, Washington

* Monday, March 6, at 7 pm at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint, Idaho

For further information, please see and share the linked coalition videos about GTN Xpress resistance and the February 13 People’s Hearing, send your written comments sharing your concerns about GTN Xpress (Docket CP22-2-000) to FERC soon, peruse the enclosed and linked information promised with the People’s Hearing announcement and covering four months of campaign activity from mid-November 2022 until mid-February 2023, contact WIRT with your questions and suggestions, and expect further updates about upcoming, responsively scheduled protests and other urgent actions.  WIRT and partner groups appreciate your work and input on this crucial issue that requires even more public participation, especially in the environmental and political sacrifice zones of Idaho.

Stop GTN Xpress, January 30, 2023 Rogue Climate

People’s Hearing to Stop GTN Xpress, February 14, 2023 350PDX

How to File a Comment, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

FERC Online: Web Applications, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Pipeline Impacts & Winter Updates

The GTN pipeline currently crosses almost 1,400 miles of the Northwest from British Columbia, through north Idaho, eastern Washington, and central Oregon, to northeast California.  The GTN Xpress expansion proposal by TC Energy (formerly TransCanada of Keystone XL disrepute) would significantly increase the amount of climate-wrecking methane gas pumped through the aging GTN pipeline, imposing disastrous effects on public health and safety, encouraging more fracking, and unnecessarily locking communities into fossil fuels usage for decades [1-5].  Buried directly under or near Sandpoint, Dover, the Pend Oreille River, Athol, Silverwood Theme Park, and Rathdrum in north Idaho, below East Spokane, Liberty Lake, and other Spokane area neighborhoods, and across Washington and Oregon, the potentially explosive GTN Xpress pipeline would further endanger and harm rural, indigenous, and low-income residents, schools, communities, and rivers along the pipeline route and near compressor stations, with increased volumes, pollution, and releases of flammable, high-pressure gas, risking pipeline leaks and pump failures of the 62-year-plus GTN system, while supplying very little if any gas.  Close to the Sandpoint headquarters of WIRT, GTN moves under a mountain-base parking lot of one of two economic draws to our rural town, a ski resort, while BNSF Railway threatens the other economic attraction, Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, with coal, oil, and hazardous materials trains on recently twinned, almost mile-long rail bridges.  Idahoans and their visitors dread federal approval of the GTN Xpress expansion that would pump more gas in the same inevitably destructive way that TC Energy constantly pushes and ruptures the regulatory “envelope” with its increased pipeline volumes near homes, schools, businesses, roads, and railroads.

The regional Stop GTN Xpress coalition and WIRT activists are deeply concerned that Intermountain Gas of Boise has contracted for over half of GTN Xpress’ proposed, increased volume: 79 million of 150 million cubic feet per day, even while Intermountain Gas recently applied for residential utility rate increases to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (to pay for GTN Xpress gas?), while the Idaho Sierra Club and earnest, allied, grassroots groups advocate for better residential solar prices and more commercial solar and wind power generation, and while the Idaho governor and entire Congressional delegation sent formal comments ghostwritten by TC Energy, urging FERC approval of GTN Xpress.

TC Energy is requesting federal authorization to increase the amount of fracked gas flowing through the GTN pipeline.  FERC did not hold a public hearing on the controversial GTN Xpress pipeline expansion and has mostly ignored thousands of comments in opposition to it, sent by directly impacted citizens, tribal organizations, and government officials and agencies since release of the project’s draft and final environmental impact statements (EIS) respectively in June and November 2022.  If completed, this project would significantly deepen reliance on fracked gas from an additional 660 wells drilled for GTN Xpress in indigenous lands in northeastern British Columbia.  It would increase climate pollution by over 3.47 million tons of annual carbon emissions, the approximate equivalent of adding 754,000 more passenger vehicles to roads every year until 2052, and result in more annual emissions than all combined commercial buildings in Washington.  As Northwest energy demands transition away from fossil fuels use, GTN Xpress contradicts Oregon and Washington, local and state laws enacted in the last three years and committed to required reductions of fossil fuels emissions by 2030 and beyond.  The region neither needs this gas expansion project nor wants its threats to health, communities, and climate.

Twice since late October 2022, over three dozen Northwest organizations, including Idaho groups, opposing any new or expanded fossil fuels extraction, transportation, and infrastructure projects, have written and sent letters to California, Oregon, and Washington governors, encouraging them to further consider the far-reaching climate impacts of their public actions and decisions, especially for under-represented, rural communities [6-8].  These allies requested that these state administrations more strongly and publicly reject and stop TC Energy’s GTN Xpress gas pipeline and compressor station expansion project that undermines shared regional goals for healthier air and water.  Alongside West Coast state attorneys general comments to FERC, these environmental advocates have argued that the proposed expansion has not adequately demonstrated an economic need, would violate state climate policies, and may result in existing utility customers subsidizing the project.

Coalition groups are also asking U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington to speak out in opposition to TC Energy’s expansion plan that counters state climate goals and undermines the best interests of communities already facing the devastating consequences of climate change.  As citizens across the Northwest and continent successfully work to stop new fossil fuel projects, GTN Xpress is moving quickly and quietly through the federal permitting process, because it requires less approval from state agencies than new pipeline construction [9].  As soon as March 16, FERC could vote on whether to predictably rubberstamp this proposal that would impose more fracked gas on the Northwest, pumped by upgraded compressor stations in Athol, Idaho, Starbuck, Washington, and Kent, Oregon.

Increased Volumes Burst Pipelines

While proposing to unnecessarily increase the volume of its stranded Canadian gas assets in its GTN Xpress pipeline expansion across the Northwest, TC Energy also owns the infamous, rejected, incompletely constructed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the Keystone pipeline that has ruptured and spilled crude oil 23 times over the last decade, while incrementally increasing its capacity.  On December 7, 2022, Keystone experienced its worst gush since it began operation, spilling about 14,000 barrels (588,000 gallons) of sinking tar sands oil into farm fields and a creek in northeastern Kansas [10, 11].  Operators noticed a drop in pressure, isolated the affected segment, and shut down the system.  Although nearby residents could smell the spewed Keystone oil, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that the incident caused “no known effects yet on drinking water wells or the public,” despite the heavy Canadian tar sands dump into the watershed, which water surface booms cannot contain, and the airborne release of toxic diluent [11].

This largest, onshore, U.S. crude oil pipeline spill in nine years, the biggest in Keystone pipeline history, exceeded in volume all previous 22 Keystone spills combined, since pipeline installation in 2010.  “A more expensive spill happened in July 2010, when an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan ruptured and spilled more than 20,000 barrels into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.  Hundreds of homes and businesses were evacuated, and federal regulators later ordered Enbridge to dredge the contaminated sediment from the river” [11].  The Keystone system carries about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to Cushing, Oklahoma, where it connects to another pipeline to the Texas Gulf Coast that strong, sustained resistance from the grassroots Tar Sands Blockade coalition in Texas and Oklahoma contested during construction [12].  Over a decade of fierce opposition to new tar sands pipeline installations, amid concerns about potential spill pollution of waterways and a worsened, fossil fueled, climate crisis, prompted President Joe Biden to cancel a federal permit for TC Energy plans to build the additional, 1,200-mile, Keystone XL pipeline across Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Investigations confirmed that increased Keystone pipeline volumes pushed by TC Energy ruptured a pipe and caused this Kansas disaster and the disproportionate size and number of Keystone spills [13].  Keystone’s accident history may reflect similar incidents of other crude oil pipelines since its 2010 construction, but the severity of its leaks has recently worsened, paralleling increased flow capacities.  Bill Caram of Pipeline Safety Trust in Bellingham, Washington, stated that, “While the rate of [Keystone pipeline] failures …is on par with other pipelines in the country, the size of these spills is worse than industry peers, and it could be tied to fabrication issues in the pipeline or construction issues …when the pipeline was constructed and installed.  …When we see multiple failures like this, of such large size in a relatively short amount of time, after that [pipeline] pressure has increased, I think it’s time to question that” [14].

Instead of shoddily building controversial new pipelines during recent years, TC Energy has instead been similarly risking the health and safety of pipeline corridor environments and communities, by stealthily increasing the volumes of a dozen aged “natural” gas pipelines across the country, like the proposed GTN Xpress expansion in the Northwest, whether customers and the climate “need” the additional methane gas and its damages or not [15].  “Due to activist opposition to new pipeline construction, operators have every reason to try to move as much oil [and gas] as possible through existing lines, TC Energy’s [Dennis] McConaghy said.  TC Energy had recently increased the amount of oil running through the [Keystone] line, to test operations on the system.  ‘The economic driving force to pushing that envelope is always going to be there,’ McConaghy said.  ‘It’s up to PHMSA [the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] to determine whether that is something that’s prudent’” [16].

During the last decade, Northwest coalitions of climate activists and indigenous leaders have banished hundreds of tar sands megaloads and dozens of proposed coal, oil, and tar sands train terminals, methanol processing plants, liquefied natural gas export facilities, a new gas pipeline, and other fossil fuels fiascos.  Northwesterners cannot trust TC Energy to construct and maintain infrastructure like its Keystone tar sands pipeline, and should not allow this Canadian company to increase the volume and associated pressure of gas in the 62-year-old GTN pipeline with the GTN Xpress expansion project, designed primarily to benefit gas producers [17].

West Coast & Federal Resistance

As early as March 16, FERC could decide whether to approve or deny TC Energy’s GTN Xpress project that would push more fracked gas into the Northwest, despite objections from thousands of people, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), California, Oregon, and Washington attorneys general, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon.  GTN Xpress faces fierce opposition from a regional, grassroots coalition of climate advocates, tribal members, health professionals, faith leaders, and communities along the pipeline that crosses Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California.  In extensive comments to FERC issued during the closing days of the draft EIS comment period in late August 2022, CRITFC criticized FERC’s lack of consultation (not to mention consent) of tribal governments, announced its own vision for a regional, renewable energy future, decried the health, environmental, and climate impacts of the pipeline expansion, outlined deficiencies of the draft EIS, and urged FERC denial of the project [18].

Aligning with indigenous goals for renewable energy, West Coast attorneys general requested oppositional intervention in this FERC case on August 22, and filed multiple comments during and since the draft EIS period, including assertions that FERC drastically underestimated the project’s downstream greenhouse gas emissions [19].  In their comments in response to the final EIS released on November 18, the attorneys general protested FERC’s analysis, saying that, “Among other things, the final EIS still fails to address the significance of the project’s climate impacts, employs an unreasonably narrow purpose and need statement and range of alternatives, and does not adequately assess the project’s climate impacts, impacts on environmental justice communities, or its wildfire risks” [20].

Also in mid-December 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reiterated that FERC’s final EIS on GTN Xpress failed to adequately consider multiple issues, most significantly by refusing to calculate the project’s upstream emissions and overall climate impact [21].  The federal agency wrote to FERC that the “EPA continues to be concerned with the omission of upstream emissions, as it may potentially be underestimating the social costs of greenhouse gas emission (SC-GHG) impacts of the proposed project by several hundred million to over a billion dollars (depending on which discount rate for the SC-GHG is used)” [21].  The EPA also recommended that “the record of decision (ROD) incorporate and analyze the GHG emissions in the context of Washington State’s policy as well as any other Oregon and Washington GHG reduction targets and polices” [21].

U.S. Senators Merkley and Wyden of Oregon also sent a mid-December 2022, emphatic letter to FERC, urging the commission to deny approval of the GTN Xpress gas pipeline expansion [22-27].  They stated their opposition to the compressor station upgrades and increased fracked gas volumes of GTN Xpress, explaining that the expansion is “incompatible with climate objectives and is not in the public interest,” and that it would “undermine efforts by Oregon to lead the fight against climate chaos” [23].  The senators proclaimed that “Oregon has enacted policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move away from fossil gas, including making investments in renewable energy.  Renewable alternatives can meet energy demands without the climate and safety risks caused by fossil fuels” [23].  They emphasized the health and safety threats of Canadian company TC Energy pushing more potentially explosive gas through the 60-year-plus, existing GTN pipeline.  In the recent wake of TC Energy’s Keystone pipeline rupture and tar sands spill in Kansas, which prompted concerned citizens to question company and federal decisions to run that pipeline at higher pressures, the Oregon senators told FERC that “GTN Xpress would risk the safety of FRONTLINE communities and the planet for a project that isn’t necessary” [23 (emphasis added), 15, 28].  Community groups welcomed and expressed strong support for all of these tribal, state, and federal government comments calling for GTN Xpress rejection and echoing other similarly harsh remarks and protests of the project by Northwest citizens and officials.

Industry Ghostwritten Idaho Politician Comments

But observers wonder about FERC and Idaho government loyalties.  About a month after the Idaho Congressional delegation and governor filed comments in support of this Northwest fossil fuels infrastructure expansion, former FERC chairman Richard Glick responded with a gracious letter to the Idaho officials, included in the GTN Xpress public record in late November 2022 [29].  Only weeks later, diligent investigative journalism revealed that TC Energy asked the all-Republican U.S. senators and representatives and governor of Idaho to uphold this gas pipeline project, to counter Washington, Oregon, and California attorneys general filing a joint motion with FERC in late August 2022 [30, 31].  As previously described, the state attorneys general comments encouraged rejection of the GTN Xpress proposal that would undermine state laws aimed at rapidly reducing the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.  TC Energy authored a draft letter that Idaho officials signed and sent in minimally modified form to FERC, urging the agency to permit three compressor station upgrades and additional, combustible, fracked gas to dangerously pass through the GTN pipeline under north Idaho during the next three decades.

But as the U.S. Congress reconvened after this December 2022 storm of GTN Xpress debate, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a January 9, 2023 letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), requesting increased oversight of TC Energy’s special permit for higher than normal Keystone pipeline pressures, in the aftermath of the catastrophic Keystone tar sands spill and pollution in Kansas, and considering the GTN Xpress proposal to also increase its pipeline flows in the vicinity of her constituents [32].  The senator wrote that, “Despite these [23 Keystone pipeline rupture] incidents, PHMSA has continued to allow TC Energy to operate under a special permit, to move product at pressure higher than allowed under regulations.  To ensure the safety of the public and the environment, I am calling on PHMSA to immediately begin a review of TC Energy’s special permit, and to update its oil spill response requirements for bitumen oil.  It is especially important to review TC Energy’s safety records, as the company looks into increasing the throughput of the Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline” [32].  Senator Cantwell, who has previously called for improved tar sands spill responses and “clean-up” and enhanced pipeline safety programs and inspections, and has expressed concerns about Trans Mountain pipeline oil spill mitigation, to protect coastal and tribal economies, has not yet voiced opposition to GTN Xpress.

Thanks for challenging the GTN Xpress source of climate change and for supporting frontline resistance to this pipeline expansion!

[1] Category Archives: GTN Xpress Pipeline Expansion, August 18, 2022 to February 9, 2023 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[2] Reject the GTN Xpress Pipeline Expansion Phone Zap and Action-ar!, October 20, 2022

Beyond Extreme Energy

[3] BXE Monthly FERC Meeting Zoominar and Phone Zap!, November 17, 2022 Beyond Extreme Energy

[4] GTN Xpress Fracked Gas Pipeline Expansion, December 12, 2022 KBOO Locus Focus

[5] GTN Xpress: The Latest Fracked Gas Assault on Southern Oregon, January 9, 2023 KBOO Locus Focus

[6] Stop GTN Xpress Coalition Letter to West Coast Governors, October 21, 2022 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[7] Green Groups Call On Governors to Oppose GTN Pipeline Expansion ‘Loud and Clear’, October 24, 2022 Common Dreams

[8] Environmental Groups Oppose Pipeline Expansion in Pacific Northwest, November 19, 2022 Seattle Times

[9] Pipeline Company Wants to Quietly Expand Gas Shipments in the Pacific Northwest, December 8, 2022 DeSmog

[10] GTN Xpress’ TC Energy Spills 14K Barrels of Keystone Pipeline Tar Sands in Kansas!, December 9, 2022 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[11] Keystone Pipeline Leaks 14,000 Barrels of Oil into Creek in Biggest Spill Yet, December 9, 2022 Guardian

[12] Tar Sands Blockade, 2012-22 Tar Sands Blockade

[13] Increased Keystone Pipeline Flow Causing More and Larger Spills?, December 9, 2022 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[14] Data: Kansas Oil Spill Biggest in Keystone History, December 9, 2022 Associated Press

[15] Rogue Climate Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the GTN Xpress Project under CP22-2, pages 18-19, August 22, 2022 Rogue Climate

[16] Keystone Spill Prompts Scrutiny of Permit Allowing Pipeline to Run Faster, December 9, 2022 Reuters

[17] The Keystone Pipeline Is a Lemon. It Just Leaked Again for the 22nd Time, December 9, 2022 Pipeline Fighters Hub

[18] Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Submits Comments re Gas Transmission Northwest LLC’s Proposal to Expand Natural Gas Capacity in the Pacific Northwest for the GTN Xpress Project under CP22-2, August 22, 2022 Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

[19] EPA and West Coast Attorneys General Comments Against GTN Xpress Final EIS, December 9, 2022 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[20] Comments of Washington State Attorney General’s Office, et al. under CP22-2, December 19, 2022 Washington State Attorney General

[21] Comments of United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 re the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the GTN Xpress Project under CP22-2, December 15, 2022 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

[22] Oregon Senators Urge FERC to Deny GTN Xpress Gas Pipeline Expansion!, December 19, 2022 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[23] Dear Chairman Glick and Commissioners Danly, Clements, Christie, and Phillips…, December 19, 2022 Jeff Merkley, United States Senator for Oregon

[24] Merkley, Wyden Sound Alarm on Fossil Gas Pipeline Expansion, Not in the Public’s Best Interest, December 19, 2022 Jeff Merkley, United States Senator for Oregon

[25] ‘Listen to Oregon’: Merkley, Wyden Urge FERC to Deny Expansion of Gas Pipeline, December 19, 2022 Common Dreams

[26] Sounding the Alarm: Reject Fossil Gas Pipeline Expansion, Oregon U.S. Senators Say, December 19, 2022 Clatskanie Chief

[27] Merkley, Wyden Sound Alarm on ‘Fossil Gas’ Pipeline Expansion: ‘Not in the Public’s Best Interest’, December 19, 2022 KTVZ

[28] Investigators, Cleanup Crews Begin Scouring Oil Pipeline Spill in Kansas, December 9, 2022 Reuters

[29] Response to United States Senator James E. Risch’s October 21 Letter re the Gas Transmission Northwest LLC’s Xpress Project CP22-2, November 29, 2022 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

[30] Idaho Officials Submitted Industry Ghostwritten Pipeline Support Comments!, December 15, 2022 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[31] Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Idaho Officials Copy-Pasted a Fossil Fuel Industry Letter, December 15, 2022 Huffington Post

[32] Cantwell Calls for Increased Oversight after Keystone Pipeline Spills Nearly 600,000 Gallons of Tar Sands, Largest Onshore Spill in Nearly a Decade, January 9, 2023 U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

2 thoughts on “GTN Xpress Pipeline Protests Meetings & Winter Updates

  1. Pingback: Climate Justice Forum: Northwest Pipeline Expansion Resistance, Idaho Bills on Forced Gas Leasing & Building, First Nation Culture Webinar, Erin Brockovich as Terrorist, Cop City Railroad Support 3-8-23 | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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