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Press Release | January 16, 2024

RELEASE: Nearly 150 Groups Urge White House to Fully Review FERC's Disastrous Approval of PNW Pipeline Expansion

Climate
RELEASE: Nearly 150 Groups Urge White House to Fully Review FERC's Disastrous Approval of PNW Pipeline Expansion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Hannah Story Brown, storybrown@therevolvingdoorproject.org

As Bloomberg reported on Tuesday morning, the Revolving Door Project and 146 other organizations sent a letter today urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to intervene in response to the recent approval of a widely opposed pipeline expansion project in the Pacific Northwest.

The letter calls on EPA Administrator Michael Regan to refer the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s decision to greenlight the GTN XPress Pipeline Project to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for review. The project, proposed by a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian pipeline company TC Energy, would increase the capacity of the existing GTN Xpress fracked gas pipeline system by 150 million standard cubic feet of gas per day through 2050 despite incontrovertible evidence that fossil fuel expansion is incompatible with avoiding the climate emergency’s most damaging consequences.

By admitting that it would only consider alternatives that meet GTN’s goal of expanding its existing pipeline system, and refusing to consider whether the public’s energy needs could be otherwise met, FERC essentially confessed to violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires agencies to take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of their proposed actions and meaningfully consider alternatives; FERC greenlighted the project despite estimating that its emissions would cost society billions in damages. FERC also flagrantly disregarded Washington and Oregon’s legally binding decarbonization commitments.

Signatories are asking the EPA to make an explicit determination that FERC’s NEPA analysis and conclusions “were unsatisfactory from the standpoint of public health, welfare or environmental quality, to publish that determination, and to refer that determination to CEQ, requesting that no action be taken to implement the project until CEQ acts upon the referral.”

The EPA’s authority to refer the GTN Xpress Pipeline Project’s approval to CEQ stems from Section 309 of the Clean Air Act. As the letter explains, “EPA’s authority is not time-barred, nor is it limited by the post-decisional stage of the process.” 

Revolving Door Project Senior Researcher Hannah Story Brown said: “In recent decades, the EPA has increasingly neglected its ability to refer other agencies’ environmentally unsound decisions to CEQ for review. The unjustifiable approval of the GTN Xpress pipeline expansion represents an urgent opportunity for the Biden administration to reject the right-wing-orchestrated erosion of the administrative state’s capacity to protect the public interest. EPA must make full use of its tools and powers to confront the many-headed beast which is the accelerating climate crisis.”

Revolving Door Project Senior Researcher Kenny Stancil said: “FERC’s inexcusable approval of the GTN Xpress Pipeline Project flies in the face of the Biden administration’s goal of halving greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, undermines legally binding state-level climate commitments, and makes a mockery of what scientists say is necessary to avert the worst-case scenarios for humanity. If GTN is allowed to operate its planned expansion, it would be responsible for nearly half of the region’s target emissions in 2050. Even after FERC arbitrarily weakened its own analysis between the draft and final environmental impact statements, the agency still estimated that the project would cost society almost $9 billion. Administrator Regan has so far neglected to use his power to refer agency decisions to CEQ. He must take this opportunity to ensure that FERC abides by the law.”

Dineen O’Rourke, Campaign Manager at 350PDX said: “The GTN Xpress project has inspired deep, widespread opposition across the entire Northwest region. Three states, nine members of Congress, dozens of organizations, and thousands upon thousands of people have urged federal regulators to take seriously the harms that this project would impose on our communities and our climate. Every year our region experiences major climate change impacts: FERC chose to downplay these significant issues. The Biden Administration has a new opportunity with this request to show they are listening and taking our concerns seriously.”

Satya Austin-Opper, Campaign Coordinator at 350 Deschutes said: “The GTN pipeline system runs right alongside a proposal for affordable housing here in Bend. Pushing more flammable fracked gas through a decades-old pipeline in often tinder-dry Central Oregon raises major safety concerns, particularly considering recent TC Energy pipeline failures in Kansas and Virginia. Our communities are being saddled with risks so that TC Energy can push more fracked gas into a region that neither needs it nor wants it. We are urging EPA to take action on this.”

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Image Credit: This image of EPA Administrator Michael Regan by Patrick Siebert is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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