When a pipeline carrying gasoline exploded near a city park in Bellingham, Wash., earlier this summer, it fanned the flames of a battle over a new pipeline proposed for the state. Two 10-year-old boys and an 18-year-old fisherman died when the explosion ripped along Whatcom Creek, scorching 1.5 miles of riverbank and setting one home afire.
investigators are still learning exactly what caused the
277,000-gallon fuel leak that led to the explosion, the Olympic
Pipe Line Co. of Renton, Wash., announced in July that it was
withdrawing its plan to construct a 237-mile long pipeline across
Washington state (HCN, 6/21/99).
Cascade Pipeline would have sent fuel from Puget Sound to the city
of Pasco in eastern Washington, supplementing the fleet of Columbia
River barges that ferry fuel into the inland Northwest. In the
months prior to the explosion, pipeline critics had rallied to stop
the Olympic Pipe Line Co., which planned to route the line over
Snoqualmie Pass, through three state parks and North Bend,
Because the pipeline proposal may return,
Susan Harper, an activist with the Cascade Columbia Alliance in
Seattle, says her group, organized to fight the pipeline, is
working with the National Pipeline Reform Coalition to lobby the
federal Office of Pipeline Safety to enact strict safety rules
"They're so closely in bed with the
industry," Harper says of the pipeline safety office, "that the
industry is almost self-regulating."
of Pipeline Safety defends its record. Says spokeswoman Patricia
Klinger: "We are doing the best job that we can."
- Dustin Solberg