North Seattle Lateral Upgrade has county reverse its permit approvals because of new information
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Plans to enlarge a natural gas pipeline through Maltby are shifting as the county has withdrawn permit approval on the project due to environmental concerns.
“New information was submitted (last) week on the application that did not meet the requirements of code,” said county executive’s spokesperson Kent Patton. “We believe the applicant is aware of the decision and is working on resolving the issues.”
A spokesman for pipeline owner Williams Companies was not immediately able to answer specific questions on the project’s status on Friday, Nov. 9.
The county last month had approved four permits and issued a decision that the project would not have a significant environmental impact. It withdrew that decision last week after environmental concerns were raised about one of the properties involved in the nearly 6-mile long pipeline widening project, according to an official familiar with the project.
Williams presented the county with the new information, a county permit official said.
The withdrawal coincidentally but separately came as environmental activists were mobilizing to appeal.
At a meeting Nov. 7 where about 50 residents and activists gathered to discuss derailing the fracked gas pipeline project, “Yehow” was the word of the hour.
The Lushootseed word means something that must be done and can only be done together explained Pamela Bond, the fish, wildlife and environment manager for the Snohomish Tribe.
Pipeline owner Northwest Pipeline, a wholly owned subsidiary of Williams Partners, is replacing nearly six miles of 8-inch pipeline with 20-inch pipeline. The replacement pipe would increase capacity for its customer, Puget Sound Energy (PSE), to serve more North Seattle homes.
The North Seattle Lateral Upgrade project would run south of 180th Street from Yew Way in Maltby to Lynnwood.
Construction was scheduled to begin summer 2019 and end November 2019.
The 62-year-old pipeline is showing its age. Inspectors discovered and replaced a 300-foot section of the pipe after discovering a leak in 2011. Nearly a decade earlier, 2003 inspections were already showing corrosion and denting.
Meeting organizers would prefer that Williams repair the existing pipe and perhaps encase it in a protective sleeve. They are concerned the replacement will cause a slew of hazards.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the enlargement will rise 3 percent statewide according to the Sightline Institute, a Pacific Northwest policy research agency.
The impact on wildlife is another rallying point. The pipeline construction will disrupt 15 streams, said Sara Papanikolaou of climate activism group 350 Eastside. Bald eagles, finches and hummingbirds habitats would also be affected, said Kristin Kelly, executive director of the Pilchuck Audubon Society.
Gas explosions are another concern.
“We don’t want to be like Bellingham,” said Wanda Moralez, who lives only feet from the pipeline.
Many residents still remember the 1999 Olympic Pipeline incident where a gasoline line ruptured in Bellingham and the explosion killed three residents. A series of three natural gas pipeline explosions in Massachusetts this September killed one, injured 23 more and destroyed 131 homes and businesses.
In a Nov. 8 statement, Williams said the pipeline expansion was safe and necessary.
“The upgrade will add important energy infrastructure necessary to meet the local area’s growing demand for natural gas; and it will ensure PSE can meet peak demands on the coldest winter days when their customers turn up their thermostats.” The statement goes on to say: “Interstate pipelines like Northwest Pipeline are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety, which imposes a broad range of construction and operations standards. In addition to following those standards, Williams has its own high standards for pipeline design, material specifications, construction, maintenance and testing.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an environmental assessment report in February 2018 stating the project would not cause any significant impact.
The ability for the coalition to stop the plan for larger pipe would likely be a big challenge. For example, hiring attorneys to contest the project will cost hundreds per hour, Kelly said.
The coalition includes 350 Eastside, the Pilchuck Audubon Society, Protectors of the Salish Sea, and the Sierra Club.
Organizers encouraged concerned people to donate, contact the county and share their concerns with local legislators and neighbors.
Some were skeptical they could win the battle.
Bond told the assembly
an encouraging teaching story about Crow. As the teaching goes, the black bird was once feathered with rainbow-hued plumes and blessed with an exquisite singing voice. But after a long quest to save his people from a winter famine, he was scorched black and his song turned to a cackle as he bore a flaming branch to thaw the earth.
“You will be changed,” Bond said. But as Bond explained earlier, change is life.
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