Orca gas pipeline on hold

"Plans to build a natural gas pipeline across South Whidbey have been put on hold for business reasons.Canada-based Westcoast Energy announced Wednesday that it has halted development of its Orca Pipeline project until firm business agreements with customers are established.Two public meetings about the pipeline proposal have been held on South Whidbey this year. Although scantily attended, most who spoke up opposed the pipeline for environmental reasons.But money, not opposition, has stayed pipeline development. Ron Brintnell, project director, said to move forward, Westcoast requires firm, long-term commitments from customers, including the companies that would actually deliver the natural gas to homes and businesses.Westcoast would have built the pipeline from Canada to the Everett area, with a spur across Camano and Whidbey islands and then to the Port Townsend area.Overall public reaction to the proposal was positive, according to Brintnell. We heard some strong support, especially in communities that aren't currently served by natural gas.There is no natural gas on South Whidbey, although a fleet of trucks provides propane to numerous customers. Cascade Natural Gas and Puget Sound Energy were contending to see who would get the franchise for South Whidbey if the Orca Pipeline went through.Will Odell, a vice president for Cascade Natural Gas, said Westcoast's decision to delay the project was disappointing. We still believe that additional natural gas capacity will be required to meet future energy demands in northwest Washington, he said.The pipeline proposal is not dead. We're not canceling it, said Lizette Parsons, Orca's external affairs advisor, on Wednesday. It's just on hold. The company was doing some preliminary environmental and engineering work, but that has stopped, according to Parsons.As for how long the hold will continue, that depends on Westcoast's ability to sign up customers. We have no idea, Parsons said. "

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