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"Pipeline company comes to Whidbey, hosts open house"

"Gas meetingWhat: Natural gas pipeline informationWhen: Wednesday, Aug. 16, 3-8 p.m.Where: Bayview Senior CenterA proposed natural gas pipeline across South Whidbey Island will be the subject of an informational meeting Wednesday, Aug. 16 from 3-8 p.m. at the Bayview Senior Center.Canada-based West Coast Energy is studying the feasibility of what it calls the Orca Natural Gas Pipeline. Wednesday's meeting is described as an open house intended to share information about the project and collect input from the community.The proposal was first aired on South Whidbey in March when the Island County Commissioners met here with various energy and regulatory officials. But next week's meeting is the first hosted by the natural gas company.In a news release, Westcoast Energy said the pipeline is proposed in response to the growing consumer demand for natural gas in Northwest Washington, where the population has increased 7.5 percent over the past five years.The Orca Pipeline would transport natural gas from Canada at Sumas, Wash., to new and existing markets in Northwest Washington. The company has already begun environmental and geo-technical studies in parts of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, Jefferson and Kitsap counties.Tentative plans are to run the pipeline down the I-5 corridor to south Everett. One leg would jog west beneath Saratoga Passage and onto Whidbey Island in the Sandy Point area just east of Langley, and then proceed across the island to the Maxwelton area. From there, it would proceed under water to Port Townsend and markets in Jefferson and Kitsap counties. Its total length is estimated at 140 miles.In March, the Island County Commissioners doubted they would have much regulatory authority over the pipeline should it be built. Such pipelines come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.Westcoast Energy would not market the natural gas on Whidbey Island. Local distribution lines would be built by one of two competing companies, Cascade Natural Gas or Puget Sound Energy. They are regulated by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.According to Westcoast, studies now in progress will supply information on issues such as soil composition, topography, flora, fauna, streams and water tables. At the March meeting on South Whidbey, citizens raised a host of environmental concerns regarding pipeline construction, maintenance and safety.The Bayview meeting is one of several that will be held the week of Aug. 14. Others will be in Port Townsend and Poulsbo. Additional meetings are being planned for Mount Vernon, Stanwood, Marysville, Bellingham and Everson. More information about the meetings and the pipeline proposal can be found on the project website, www.orcapipeline.com. "

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