The construction route
The proposed corridor runs along existing Bonneville Power Association (BPA) rights-of-way, trails and logging roads. "We will be within the cleared corridor," said Waterman, "and we have made a commitment not to take down any trees outside the BPA easement."
The underground pipeline could commence construction in November 1997 and would take one year to build. The 12" to 14" plastic-coated steel pipe would lie three to four feet underground. In addition, the pipeline would have cathodic coating on the interior, a protective element similar to what is used in residential hot water heaters.
When completed, the pipeline would deliver motor gasoline, diesel fuel and aviation jet fuel from Western Washington refineries across the Cascades to Central and Eastern Washington.
If approved, the Cross-Cascades Pipeline would pump approximately 2.5 million gallons to Eastern Washington per day and cost $105 million to construct. Olympic's existing 400-mile pipeline, built in 1965, runs north-south along the east side of I-405 and I-5 and transports 14.7 million gallons of petroleum products per day from refineries in Bellingham to Seattle and Portland.
Olympic is the only company in Western Washington that transports gasoline and diesel fuel by underground pipeline.
Several groups oppose project
Opposition to the project has mounted quickly, said Dave Bricklin, the attorney representing Cascade Columbia Alliance, an organization comprised of environmental groups, residents, and businesses which currently transport petroleum products via the Columbia to Pasco.
Bricklin recently represented the Canterbury Criers Association in the purchase of their mobile home park in Woodinville.
Other groups that have expressed opposition include the Washington Environmental Council, The Friends of the Earth and the Tulalip Indian Tribe.
During the approval process, the Cascade Columbia Alliance will oppose the pipeline because of potential environmental degradation and the fact the pipeline crosses the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee National Forests and the Cle Elum, Yakima, and Columbia Rivers, and runs alongside four wildlife refuges.
Olympic maintains that they have been transporting fuel safely for 30 years, moving approximately 4 billion gallons per year while spilling "less than a gallon per million." Olympic adds that it has transported more than 30 billion gallons of fuel in the past eight years without "one drop reaching the waters of Washington."
Olympic's project will have to undergo a national and state environmental impact (NEPA/SEPA) process, which could take 12 to 18 months. In addition to getting approval from EFSEC, the project would finally cross the Governor's desk in Olympia.
The proposed pipeline is a common carrier of petroleum products, meaning they will carry anyone's product from the Bellingham fuel refinery. As a common carrier, Olympic would have the power of "eminent domain," which, according to the Revised Code of Washington, allows them to condemn the land for the greater good of the state.
One resident asked why Olympic is offering to buy the land when they can use the state's gun to take it away. "That isn't the route we want to take, but it is an option," Waterman told the audience. "It is our intent to work with each and every one of you as much as possible. We have the right of eminent domain but we don't like to use it."
As mentioned previously, Olympic is offering fair market value for the property they need, proportional either by foot or by acre, and the company has suggested that landowners get appraisals.
To construct the 227-mile pipeline, Olympic needs approximately 1,600 acres, and would supposedly cross 15 acres of wetlands.
"In my opinion, this is a misuse of eminent domain," said a resident who did not want to be identified. "The original purpose of eminent domain was to cure large-scale social ills or serve the greater good. Anybody who signs one of those cheap agreements is a fool."
Why a pipeline?
Olympic says the demand for refined fuel has increased in Central and Eastern Washington due to job and population growth.
While refineries in Montana and Salt Lake City have been able to meet the demand, meeting the future fuel demands of Washington will require "significant increase in either tanker trucks crossing the Cascades or oil barge traffic on the Columbia River," Olympic said.
The Cascade Columbia Alliance alleges that because underground pipeline accidents are more difficult to detect and can go undetected for long periods of time, the "pristine woods and mountain water" along the proposed route are "at risk."
The Alliance adds that building pipelines is a way to avoid adhering to the strict environmental guidelines regulating vessels, and is a way to circumvent the regulations and the agencies which govern barges and tankers.
William Mulkey, spokesperson for Olympic, says pipelines are regulated as well, answering federally to the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, plus the state's Department of Ecology, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and local municipalities.
"The pipeline is highly regulated, from operations to the control of the tariff rates per barrel," Mulkey said.
Mulkey added that a pipeline is the safest, cheapest method of transporting petroleum products.
"We have state-of-the-art detection facilities in Renton where two controllers are on duty monitoring the pipeline 24 hours a day," Mulkey said.
More than 60 percent of the products Olympic transports is motor gasoline destined for Northwest service stations.