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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Natural gas pipeline through Washington approved to expand capacity

A project that will expand the daily volume of an existing natural gas pipeline that connects Canada to California and passes through Spokane County was approved Thursday.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized TC Energy, an Alberta, Canada natural gas company, to move forward with its GTN Xpress pipeline expansion.

The Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline, built in 1961, travels 1,377 miles through Idaho, Eastern Washington and Oregon. The expansion will add 150 million cubic feet per day to the pipeline’s existing 2.9 billion capacity by increasing pressure through upgrades to three compressor stations in Athol, Idaho; Starbuck, Washington; and Kent, Oregon.

The project is intended to meet increased demand in the region.

“The GTN XPress Project will play a critical role in keeping energy affordable and reliable for consumers in California and the Pacific Northwest,” TC Energy said in a statement. “We appreciate FERC’s bipartisan action today to approve the Project and will work diligently to place it into service as soon as possible.”

The pipeline passes under the Spokane River in Liberty Lake.

Environmental groups and politicians have criticized the project as increasing emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement saying the project locks in long-term infrastructure investments that are against state and national climate goals. The project’s estimated lifespan is at least 50 years.

“Today’s decision by FERC flies in the face of what is morally and economically necessary to protect our communities from the worsening impacts of climate change,” Inslee said.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a motion with attorneys general in Oregon and California to oppose the project last year.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, of Washington, and Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, signed a letter urging the commission to reject the proposal, writing that the project repeatedly failed to demonstrate public need and failed to consult with affected tribes.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, formed by the four tribes of the Columbia and Snake River Basin, sent a letter to the energy commission last year referencing the tribes’ climate goals for reducing fossil fuels use.

Audrey Leonard, staff attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, said the organization would join others in filing a petition for rehearing with the regulatory commission to challenge the project.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.