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State Pipeline Rights Under Siege? Wash. Citizens’ Oversight Panel Sounding Alarm

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
The north end of Seattle's Harbor Island, where an underground Olympic Pipe Line Co.'s fuel pipeline ends its route from Renton, Wash., to a tank farm, is seen Monday, July 14, 2003.

A statewide citizens’ committee on pipeline safety has criticized a federal proposal to take additional control of pipeline safety away from the states and remand it to the federal government. 

The latest annual report from 13-member the Citizens’ Oversight Committee says the federal proposal effectively would take away states’ authority over interstate pipelines. The committee's concern is that inspectors would have to come from too far away, slowing response times and loosening enforcement.

The citizens committee on pipeline safety was created by the legislature fifteen years ago, after a tragic explosion in Bellingham that killed a man and two boys.  According to an investigation by the state that took three years to complete, the line to the oil refinery at Cherry Point had ruptured and the Olympic Pipeline Company was at fault. 

Those kinds of incidents are ongoing, says Anna Gill. She’s the outreach manager for the committee, which is part of Washington’s Utilities and Transportation Commission. There are nine interstate transmission pipelines in Washington. 

“These things do happen. There was an incident in Anacortes, which ended up being non-jurisdictional to us. But, we were able to send somebody up there immediately and have them  assess the situation and make that determination. Because sometimes you don’t know,” Gill said.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to