Natural gas pipeline permit application withdrawn — for now

Environmentalists have a long list of concerns about plans to enlarge almost six miles of pipe.

CLEARVIEW — A company has withdrawn a permit application to upgrade nearly 6 miles of natural gas pipeline through unincorporated Snohomish County.

The project known as the North Seattle Lateral Upgrade isn’t likely to disappear, however. Northwest Pipeline had been hoping to start construction next year to enlarge the transmission system serving Puget Sound Energy customers.

“We’re gathering information to supplement the application, and we’ll submit it as soon as we can,” said Keith Isbell, a spokesman for Northwest Pipeline’s parent company.

Northwest Pipeline is part of The Williams Companies Inc., based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The upgrade would replace 8-inch pipe with 20-inch pipe. It would relocate and replace a short distance of 16-inch pipe, along with other upgrades.

The county last month issued a determination of non-significance for that work. The county withdrew the decision Nov. 14. That happened after Northwest Pipeline and county planners agreed more study was needed to gauge potential environmental impacts.

The withdrawal came after planners learned that a storage facility related to the upgrade sits in a channel migration zone, an area where a river or stream is likely to change course.

The project has attracted scrutiny from environmental groups. They’re asking the county to take a closer look at how the enlarged pipeline might increase pollution or safety risks. An estimated 45 people attended a Nov. 7 meeting at the Brightwater Center about the project, according to organizers.

Concerns include potential damage to wetlands from a project that would cross 15 streams. Critics worry the project would contribute to an increase in greenhouse gases. They say it relies on environmentally damaging fracking techniques to extract gas from the ground. They also point to deadly pipeline explosions in other parts of the country.

The North Seattle Lateral delivers gas to homes and businesses in north King and Snohomish counties.

The proposed upgrade would start west of the Bothell-Everett Highway and extend eastward until just short of Highway 9, passing through the communities of North Creek and Clearview. Much of the route lies south of 180th Street. It would cross 154 land parcels.

”The growth we have experienced in the region has put a strain on the infrastructure, which triggered the need for the upgrade so that PSE can continue to provide reliable service, especially on the coldest days of the year when demand for natural gas is highest,” said Janet Kim, a PSE spokeswoman.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted initial approvals for the upgrade earlier this year.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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