(The Center Square) — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has opposed increasing the capacity of the natural gas pipeline that delivers home heating and cooking fuel to Washingtonians, stating it would harm the environment and hamper the state’s climate goals.
Others say it will have no effect on Washington’s carbon emissions and could actually hinder the transition away from fossil fuels by driving up prices.
Ferguson, joined by attorneys general from Oregon and California, filed a motion Monday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opposing a proposed increase in the capacity of the Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline.
“This project undermines Washington state’s efforts to fight climate change,” Ferguson said. “This pipeline is bad for the environment and bad for consumers.”
The 1,377-mile pipeline, built in 1961, runs from British Columbia through Idaho and Washington into Oregon, where it connects to California’s Pacific Gas and Electric system.
The pipeline delivers 2.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to Washington, Oregon and California. Pipeline owner TC Energy is seeking permission to modify existing gas compressor stations along the pipeline in order to increase capacity.
If approved, the upgraded compressors could deliver an additional 150 million cubic feet of gas per day, an increase of 5.6%.
That increased flow could not affect consumption in Washington state because existing state laws already limit the consumption of natural gas, according to Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at Washington Policy Center.
“From an environmental standpoint, what the Attorney General is doing is meaningless,” Myers told The Center Square. “As the Attorney General noted in the news release, Washington already has a limit on the total amount of natural gas that can be sold in the state, and it declines over time.”
However, clamping down on supply could have the unintended consequence of turning public opinion against the transition away from fossil fuels, according to Myers.
“If you crack down on supply rapidly, you get huge volatility,” Myers stated, noting the current high fuel prices in Europe. “That causes economic pain but doesn’t add to environmental reductions. The more painful the transition is the more people may turn against the policy.”
In response to the Ferguson motion, TC Energy released a statement saying natural gas is a vital and safe component of the region’s energy strategy.
“The Gas Transmission Northwest XPress Project . . . is designed to upgrade our system to meet increased demands from our customers in the region, providing the reliable energy to communities throughout the Western U.S. in a safe, responsible, and reliable manner,” TC Energy stated, adding that the project had broad support among various stakeholders in the region.
In addition to environmental concerns, Ferguson’s motion claims that the company is hiding the true costs of proposed modifications and asking utility customers to subsidize them.