PSE just released a report by a consultant (paid for by PSE) that examines a narrow set of safety concerns about building 230,000-volt transmission lines very close to the aging Olympic Pipeline. This is the pipeline that transports 13 million gallons of high-pressure jet fuel and gasoline through our communities each day.
According to PSE, the study “confirms that Energize Eastside can be safely colocated with Olympic Pipe Line Company’s pipelines throughout the existing corridor.”
PSE overstates the report’s conclusions. The report doesn’t say the project will be safe. Instead, it recommends design changes to reduce risk of accelerated corrosion and ignition of the pipeline due to electric arcing. These changes include running a second set of poles over Somerset hill, increasing the voltage on one line, and raising pole heights 50% higher than they are today.
The report does not address construction risk. A minor construction accident by a city-approved contractor led to the explosion of this pipeline in Bellingham in 1999. Three children were killed. The Bellevue Fire Department says a similar accident in the Eastside would be “catastrophic.”
The report is also silent about how increased voltage may increase the risk of explosions following an earthquake. This is a concern because the proposed route crosses a major fault line.
CENSE agrees that safety is the top priority for this project. There are more modern solutions that are safer, less destructive to neighborhoods and the environment, and less expensive. Experts say these smarter solutions would deliver better reliability on a year-round basis. Why is PSE so quick to dismiss solutions that are already being used in over 100 Bellevue-sized cities around the country? Because the company’s proposal significantly increases revenues for their Australian and Canadian owners, paid for by decades of higher electric bills for us.