Pipeline contractor talks about gas need, economic benefit and safety

A presentation to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on April 1 by Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline gave an overview of the 237-mile proposed pipeline that would transport Liquefied Natural Gas through Oregon, from Coos Bay over the border into California.
Although citizens were not allowed to comment at the BOC work session, well over a dozen attended from Grants Pass to Ashland. The following day several opponents of the pipeline spoke at the regular BOC meeting. The comments ranged from the pipeline’s close proximity to a market with gas pumps, to the taking of private property. Trail resident Bill Wehde summed up their feelings when he said, "We don’t want it."

Natural gas fills 20 percent of Oregon’s energy needs, with about 35
percent of households using gas to heat, according to Hank Henrie,
Business Manager for Williams Company that will construct the pipeline.

The Pacific Northwest gets gas from Washington, Canada and
the Rocky Mountain region with Canada supplying about 80 percent.
Because of factors such as Canadian population growth and diversion of
gas to the Midwest, supplies are declining. As a result, wholesale
prices of gas have gone up 200 percent. The pipeline would offer price
stability and a reliable supply, said Henrie.
Although the
regional supply is limited, there is a tremendous amount available
worldwide, particularly in the Mideast and Australia. But there is
competition for that global supply, Henrie stated. Their project, the
Jordan Cove terminal in Coos Bay, is up against the proposed Warrenton
terminal. Both companies are in a race to secure needed permits because
one terminal and pipeline would sufficiently supply Oregon.
confirmed there are also three proposed pipelines, Ruby, Bronco and
Sunstone, that would bring gas from southwest Wyoming to Malin (Klamath
County) to serve the Pacific Northwest as well as Northern California
and Northern Nevada.
Economically, the pipeline would
provide about $8 million to the local tax base. The taxes would be
split almost equally between the four counties involved: Jackson, Coos,
Douglas and Klamath. Williams would also employ about 1,800 qualified
people at peak construction with about half coming from the local
workforce, said Henrie.
Safety of the pipeline has caused
some concern. Commissioner C.W. Smith asked for examples to compare the
pipeline’s safety with other methods of gas delivery. Project Manager
Dan Lattin replied that in 56 years of business there has never been a
fatality of a member of the public. For more information see the
website at www.pstrust.org.
The high-strength steel pipe is
more than one-half inch thick and welded together. According to Lattin,
welds are X-rayed 100-percent rather than the 10-percent required. And
except in rocky areas the pipeline is buried 36-inches deep. More
safeguards are a coating on pipes to prevent moisture damage; testing
of pressure; aerial and ground inspections; yearly leak detection
tests; 24-hour monitoring and more.
Garnering laughter,
Smith asked somewhat humorously if the pipe is manufactured in China.
Lattin’s response was that the steel would be put out to bid.
assured commissioners that Pacific Connector is required to have all
permits from federal, state and local agencies before beginning
construction. Some permits for Shady Cove’s meter station and the Butte
Falls compressor station have already been applied for. The meter
station in Shady Cove will tie in with Avista Utilities.
PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) is the government agency that regulates pipeline companies.
draft of biological assessment was submitted to FERC (Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission) on March 10, according to Lattin. The final
Environmental Impact Study and a certificate most likely will be
obtained in Fall 2008. Citizens can learn how to get involved in the
public impact statement process at an open house in Shady Cove on April
23 at 6:00 p.m at the Grange, 95 Chaparral.
The pipeline
will cross about 100 water bodies. Lattin said they try to work during
"fish windows" (times of low fish activity) and limit the duration of
construction in sensitive water bodies.
A horizontal drill
will go under the Rogue River. Commissioner Dave Gilmour expressed
concern that Bentonite Clay used as a lubricant could "fraq-out" (leak)
and contaminate the river, endangering salmon. Lattin said the mud
pressure is measured continually. If a fraq-out does occur, drilling is
stopped until the hole fills. Where horizontal drilling would not work,
open cuts are used.
Working with the affected 42
landowners in Jackson County will not happen until Spring 2009,
according to Land Project Manager Rodney Gregory. Then, fair and
equitable compensation based on the existing land use such as
commercial or farmland will be discussed.
Fluctuations in
real estate values are not taken into consideration. The financial
analysis is based on "that point of time," said Gregory. Individual
properties will not be appraised. Instead, a general market study will
be done by a third-party that will look at similar properties to
determine value.
It is up to the homeowner to point out
unique characteristics of their property during negotiations. Loss of
crops, timber and land may receive compensation. For those unwilling to
negotiate, eminent domain is the final process, warned Gregory.
advice was to invest the onetime payment so interest earned would
compensate for future financial impacts.  He reminded those present
that landowners do not lose the property. An office in Medford will be
opened for communication between the parties.
The pipeline
needs a clearing in width of 95-to-120 feet. After construction and
compensation, restoration of property will take place using
photographs, Gregory said. That is also when mitigation for wildlife
will take place.
Commissioner Smith said Oregonians don’t
believe they would benefit from this pipeline as much as Northern
Californians. According to Lattin, if the facility is placed in Oregon,
the region would see a benefit with gas available along the line.
More information is available at www.pacificconnectorgp@williams.com 
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent

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