Upgrade to natural gas pipeline worries environmental groups

A company says the work is necessary to improve safety and meet growing customer demand.

CLEARVIEW — A coalition of environmental groups is airing concerns about a plan to upgrade nearly 6 miles of natural gas pipeline from east of Lynnwood through Clearview past Highway 9.

A partial list of objections includes the wider pipeline’s potential to increase carbon emissions, encourage dirty fracking techniques and expand housing sprawl into rural areas. The pipeline company says the upgrade would improve safety and satisfy growing demand.

Skeptics have scheduled a community meeting for Wednesday evening.

“I’m concerned about the 15 streams that would be impacted,” said Jeanine SanClemente, who lives in the Lost Lake area of unincorporated Snohomish County, east of the project’s endpoint. “I’m concerned about the danger of a pipeline running through my neighborhood.”

SanClemente is active in Mothers Out Front, a group that seeks to confront climate change. Also involved in the meeting are 350 Eastside, 350 Seattle and the Sierra Club’s Washington state chapter. Other hosts include the Pilchuck Audubon Society and Protectors of the Salish Sea. The meeting is planned from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Brightwater Center, 22505 Highway 9, Maltby.

The pipeline is known as the North Seattle Lateral. The upgrade would replace 8-inch pipe with 20-inch pipe. It would relocate and replace a short distance of 16-inch pipe. Pumping and metering upgrades figure into the plans as well.

The pipeline is owned by Northwest Pipeline LLC, part of the interstate pipeline network for Williams, an energy company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It supplies Puget Sound Energy, which provides natural gas service to much of Snohomish County from Marysville south, along with parts of other counties.

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

Now, land-use permits are pending with Snohomish County. Approvals are required for grading, construction, tree removal and shoreline development.

County planners have determined that the project would not have a significant environmental impact. They are accepting comments on that decision before making it final. As of Monday, they had not determined when the clock would start ticking on a three-week comment period.

“That’s part of our thinking for this community forum, to give folks a chance to learn about this project,” said Sara Papanikolaou from 350 Eastside. “At this point, no EIS (environmental impact statement) would be required for this project. We feel like with the climate and environmental impacts of this project, there should be an EIS.”

Three of the four permits can be appealed to the county hearing examiner. The shoreline permit can be appealed to the state’s Shoreline Hearings Board.

State permits are required as well.

The proposed project would affect about 88 acres, according to permitting documents.

The route crosses 154 land parcels, said Michael Dobesh, a division manager in the county planning department.

The upgrade would start west of the Bothell-Everett Highway. It would follow a route south of 180th Street through the North Creek area toward Clearview. It would continue past Highway 9, stopping just short of Highway 522.

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

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