Puget Sound Energy last week released the results of a safety study regarding the Energize Eastside project.
A report from international safety consulting firm DNV GL came to the conclusion that there was no undue risk in co-locating a high-voltage power line in the same corridor along the Willow 1 route.
Energize Eastside, a controversial project extending a 230-kV line 18 miles from Kirkland to Renton through Bellevue, Redmond and Newcastle, has come under fire by citizen groups claiming the project could cause a loss of property value, that it was unnecessary and that it posed possible safety issues.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) laid out several potential routes for the line to take, particularly in “Segment 2” which runs through Bellevue residential neighborhoods. Willow 1, the energy company’s preferred route, would follow an existing utilities corridor for much of the route before climbing into Somerset and the Coal Creek area on its way south to Newcastle and then Renton.
Jens Nedrud, PSE’s senior project manager for Energize Eastside, said this report could hopefully alleviate some of those safety concerns.
“Safety remains our top priority,” he said. “So we were really encouraged by the findings that Energize Eastside and the pipeline can exist in the same corridor. Just as they have done for 40 years.”
Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy (CENSE), has claimed the danger of an alternating current high voltage line existing withing 50 feet of an underground high-pressure petroleum products pipeline posed an undue risk to residents living nearby the proposed route.
Don Marsh, president of CENSE and opponent of Energize Eastside, said the study wasn’t as much of a winning card as PSE thought.
“PSE paid a consultant to examine a narrow set of safety issues regarding the construction of 230,000-volt transmission lines close to the Olympic Pipeline. PSE overstates the conclusions of this report by calling the project “safe,”” he said. “The report says only that PSE can make changes to reduce safety hazards such as accelerated corrosion of the pipeline. But the report is silent regarding the safety risk of digging holes and installing poles within feet of the aging pipeline. Thirteen million gallons of jet fuel and gasoline flow through this pipeline and our communities every day.”
He cited the 1999 Bellingham pipeline explosion which killed three as proof the danger exists.
Nedrud claimed the study was put together by the same “trusted expert” CENSE had used in the past to argue against the project.
The study did recommend certain changes to PSE’s plan, including poles ten feet higher in Somerset, raising poles from 65’ to 75’ and running 230-kV lines both directions rather than a 230-kV line and a 115-kV line. It did however, claim that Willow 1, if built to safety specifications, is the best route for the project.
“We’ve learned that the Willow 1 route has the lowest risk of pipeline corrosion and avoids pipeline mitigation,” Nedrud said. “The optimized design means slightly taller poles in Somerset, where we know safety, pole heights and views are key concerns.”
DNV GL said other routes would pose mitigation risks.
“The route that combines the existing corridor with the Newport Way area, called Willow 2, falls in the “unpredictable” category, which means that corrosion may or may not occur, so Olympic would need to monitor the pipelines and determine whether pipeline mitigation is necessary in the future,” PSE’s statement reads.
Marsh said the proposed impacts would have an even greater impact on Bellevue communities for little reason.
“There are more cost-effective ways to improve reliability without damaging our communities. Over 100 Bellevue-sized cities in the U.S. use smarter, more reliable technologies than PSE is proposing,” he said. “Experts say these solutions would deliver better reliability on a year-round basis. Why has PSE been so quick to dismiss modern solutions?”
PSE has submitted the pipeline study to the draft Environmental Impact Statement process.
The City of Bellevue, the lead agency on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) along with the other impacted cities, is currently studying the Phase 2 Draft EIS. That statement is due in the first quarter of 2017.