PIPELINE STOPPED

PI OPINION
Letters to the Editor

Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Westcoast Energy Inc.’s decision to cancel their unfortunately named “Orca Pipeline” across Admiralty Inlet allows the citizens of the Greater Puget Sound to breath a temporary sigh of relief (Seattle P-I, Sept. 14). However, one has to question the timing and reason for their decision.

While demand for natural gas has been growing throughout the region and nation, they claim to have been unable to line up firm agreements with major customers. What they did not mention was that their decision came after strong opposition to their project was expressed at public meetings and the day before a major protest was scheduled at the border near Sumas.

However, like the temporarily stopped Cross-Cascades oil pipeline, the public cannot let down their guard for long. There are still two natural gas pipelines proposed to cross through Western Washington, including one through the San Juan Islands.

The public is continually at a disadvantage in its review of these projects because the siting agencies assume that as long as some company is willing to seek permits there must be a public need. Furthermore, the issues surrounding these projects are extremely technical.

The rules of both the Washington state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC) are currently being reviewed. In addition, the Office of Pipeline Safety’s entire pipeline oversight program is being reauthorized by Congress.

There should be a moratorium on all future pipeline sitings until these efforts are complete. This will assure that the oil and gas industry stops dragging its feet on these reforms.

Finally, if these efforts are to have any long-term merit there needs to be a series of well funded, but independent, citizen oil-spill advisory councils to assure that the public’s interests are represented during these processes. Two such programs have been very successful in Alaska. It is time that they spread around the country.

Fred Felleman
NW Director of Ocean Advocates and Vice President of Fuel Safe Washington

~ by fredfelleman on September 19, 2000.

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