Northwest NEWS

June 28, 1999

Front Page

Olympic withdraws cross-Cascades pipeline proposal

by Lisa Allen, Valley View editor

   DUVALL--A day after Duvall City Engineer Elizabeth Goode recommended to the City Council that the city officially oppose construction of the proposed cross-Cascades petroleum pipeline, Olympic Pipe Line withdrew its application for the new fuel line.

   The company indicated, though, that it may file again at a later date. The pipeline was initially proposed over three years ago.

   Goode had made the recommendation last Thursday in light of the June 10 pipeline explosion in Bellingham that killed two 10-year-old boys and a teenager. Duvall is the only city in the Snoqualmie Valley that had not taken a stand on the issue.

   The 231-mile petroleum pipeline was slated to go from Woodinville to Pasco, crossing through the Snoqualmie Valley. The cities of Carnation, Snoqualmie, and North Bend all had committed to opposing the pipeline. Olympic planned to run the line east of Duvall and Carnation and through North Bend.

   A Duvall-area map of the proposal shows the pipeline running south from the county line across Cherry Valley, crossing Cherry Creek. It would continue on about two miles east of Cedarcrest High School along 308th NE, then about one mile east of Stillwater Elementary School, crossing Harris Creek at Kelly Road. East of Carnation, the pipeline would have gone under the Tolt River.

   "Assurances that we have been provided don't appear to be true," Goode told the council last week. She said her prior meetings with Olympic over the city's concerns about the pipeline passing through existing aquifers have focused heavily on the company's computer system to control leaks and detect corrosion.

   "Clearly their computer system did not work," she said, citing concern over the apparent corrosion that existed on the damaged Bellingham pipeline.

   Goode recommended to the council "to find a way to oppose the pipeline at least until Olympic can provide an effective leak detection system."

   Goode said in a separate interview that the pipeline "cuts across several aquifers and will travel over and through ground that is highly susceptible to ground water contamination."

   She added she is not particularly impressed with Olympic's emergency plan. "All they have given us is a list of emergency equipment," she said. "Any emergency would still be our problem."

   The council would have voted on the matter at their next scheduled meeting.

   On Friday, Olympic Pipe Line Co. officials dropped the proposal, saying the company needs to focus its efforts on the investigation of the explosion and fire in Bellingham.

   "We have diverted all our resources to Bellingham as we attempt to find the cause of the leak and work with families in rebuilding trust and confidence in the pipeline," said Olympic official John Teriet.

   Company officials said they had no choice but to drop the proposal after the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) declined to delay hearings on the proposal for the new pipeline. EFSEC is the state agency that governs the process and is responsible for reviewing the application and taking public comments.

   After the Bellingham incident, EFSEC granted a two-week delay in the hearings, but last week refused the company's request for a continued delay.

   The explosion did not stop Olympic Pipe Line Co. from appealing a recent North Bend City Council decision to ban interstate pipelines in the city. The company planned to run the pipeline under the Snoqualmie Valley Trail three blocks from the downtown area. North Bend had adopted the ordinance requiring pipelines to follow I-90 two months before the Bellingham explosion.

   Teriet declined to call the appeal a lawsuit against the city. "We are filing a motion to reject the decision," he said. "It is just part of the appeal process."

   North Bend received the appeal papers four days after the Bellingham explosion.

   Shortly after the blast, the state Parks and Recreation Commission denied the company's application to cross parts of the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and Iron Horse and Olallie state parks in the Cascades.

   Olympic spokesperson Robin Herberger said last week that the company has not yet found a cause for the leak and has been unable to look at the pipeline due to the existence of water pipes in the area.

   "We expect to remove the part on Saturday," she said. "Then the NTSB will seal it into a box and take it to a lab in D.C. for study."

   Referring to reports of a "gouge" or "wrinkle" found in the line in 1996, she said the gouge was very "minute." But a Seattle Times report last Thursday said federal investigators believe the weak spot and a faulty valve to be the culprits.

   The news report stated that problems began when Olympic's computer crashed in the control room in Renton. Then a valve slammed shut 20 miles south of Bellingham, causing pressure to soar in the pipeline, the report stated. The line then burst at the weakest point at Whatcom Falls Park, sending a river of gasoline into Whatcom Creek.

   Officials estimate that 277,000 gallons of fuel leaked out of the pipeline before the blast. It was determined that a plastic fireplace lighter the two younger boys were playing with ignited the fuel.

Audrey Mintz contributed to this report.