Earth Ministry describes the impact of the gas pipeline
Maddie Smith, Operations Manager of Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light (WAIPL), held an informational meeting recently at Salem Lutheran in Spokane on what faith communities should know about TC Energy's effort to upgrade its 60-year-old Gas Transmissions Northwest (GTN) Pipeline to increase the pressure and flow from British Columbia through North Idaho, Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon to Northern California.
Earth Ministry/WAIPL, which organizes people of faith for environmental justice, is part of the Stop the GTN Coalition of organizations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho that oppose this fossil fuel project.
"As faith communities, we seek to prevent harm to our neighbors, taking care of our neighbors and creation. This project goes against those values," said Maddie (they). "The faith community cares about environmental justice and making sure that harm is not done to communities dealing with increased climate impacts.
They spoke about hazards of the GTN Express.The gas that goes through the GTN pipeline is fracked in Northeastern B.C., with delivery points along the pipeline, they explained. It is owned by TC Energy, formerly Trans Canada, the company behind the Keystone and Keystone XL projects.
The gathering learned that when the pipeline was originally built it was mostly in rural areas, but now goes through suburban and urban areas, near a preschool in Liberty Lake and under Valley Real Life Church in the Spokane Valley. It also runs under the Spokane River and I-90.
"It's scary that it is close to our communities." Maddie said.
Environmental and community organizers note that as new pipelines are stopped or shut down, fossil fuel companies have increased efforts to push more gas through existing pipelines because that's harder to stop.
"Increased fracked gas capacity to this pipeline means increased pressure. That's where safety concerns come in. They want to push more gas through 60-year-old pipes. This project involves equipment upgrades to increase pressure at three compressor stations placed every 40 to 100 miles along the pipeline. One in Starbuck, Wash., and another in Athol, Idaho, will be upgraded.
The pipeline runs over the Spokane Valley and Rathdrum aquifer, the source of Spokane's drinking water, Maddie said.
The GTN pipeline has had three leaks in the last 10 years, they reported, adding concern about explosions. A farmer in the Palouse didn't know why his crop wasn't growing in one spot and then realized a gas pipeline was leaking there.
"GTN and TC Energy try to show increased demand for natural or fracked gas, but gas demand is going down in Washington, Oregon and California, where this gas could be used," said Maddie.
Earth Ministry/WAIPL and coalition partners helped pass new Washington State building codes last year that require new commercial or residential buildings to be built with electric heat pumps, space heaters or water heating. So new construction will not be powered or heated by natural gas, Maddie said.
"The main concern for the faith community and for Earth Ministry is health risks of fracking and people living near fracking, much of which is on indigenous lands," they said. "A B.C. organizer recently learned that to meet the increased gas flow through the GTN Express Project, 660 new fracking wells would need to be dug in Northeastern British Columbia near indigenous communities.
"We need to transition off fossil fuels and fracked gas because of climate concerns. This project throws out state and tribal climate goals," added Maddie, who sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a letter signed by more than 350 faith leaders from Oregon, Washington and Idaho saying the project is "dangerous and immoral."
FERC decides if the project is in the public interest. Recently, FERC wrote GTN asking: "How do you know that gas demand is going to go up? There's all this evidence saying that it won't."
Maddie said Earth Ministry/WAIPL is updating progress on the campaign and action by faith communities on its website at earthministry.org.