Alex Baumhardt

Federal regulators delayed a key vote that would allow more natural gas to flow through Oregon, Idaho, Washington and to California following pressure from environmentalists and Oregon’s two U.S. senators.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was scheduled to vote Thursday morning on whether to approve the expansion of the Gas Transmission Northwest Express pipeline, or GTN Xpress, that sends billions of cubic feet of natural gas each day from Canada to customers in the Northwest and California. Natural gas, used to heat and power about one-quarter of all Oregon homes, is mostly methane — a potent greenhouse gas that is a main contributor to global climate change.

The pipeline’s owner, Calgary-based TC Energy, asked the commission in 2021 to allow it to expand the pipeline’s capacity, moving millions more cubic feet of natural gas to customers each day due to what the company said is growing demand.

But on Wednesday, the day before the five-member commission was to take its final vote, members received letters from two dozen environmental organizations, along with Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, urging the commission to vote “no” or to delay a vote.

The commission struck the vote from its agenda Thursday morning but did not provide an explanation, commission spokesperson Mary O’Driscoll said in an email.