Will NW Natural resurrect the Palomar Pipeline?

On March 23rd, 2011, the Palomar Pipeline project collapsed after three years of fierce opposition from communities across the Pacific Northwest. Bark and our allies celebrated this incredible grassroots victory with raised glasses and battle stories from the volunteers and activists who made our win possible. But even as we celebrated, NW Natural was hatching plans to resurrect the Palomar Pipeline through Mt. Hood National Forest.

Two weeks before Palomar pulled the plug on its federal application, Bark discovered that NW Natural was meeting with energy regulatory agencies in Oregon and Washington and laying the groundwork for a revised Palomar Pipeline route. Its “new” plan would build 120 miles of pipeline starting in Molalla, cutting through 40 miles of Mt. Hood National Forest before reaching the Warm Springs reservation, and terminating north of Madras in Wasco County. Bark presented information from these meetings to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), calling out the discrepancies in Palomar’s original application and its apparent “new” plans, and requested that FERC require the withdrawal of Palomar’s application. Two weeks later, Palomar withdrew its application and Oregonians celebrated. But the withdrawal came with a promise to return with a new proposal in the future that “reduces Palomar’s footprint in Mt. Hood National Forest.”

Despite NW Natural’s claims that a new revised Palomar route will protect Mt. Hood National Forest, it is clear that their probable new route is equally damaging – if not more so – than its previous route. The 40-mile segment of Palomar that would cut through Mt. Hood would require road construction in roadless areas, log old growth forest, cross the Wild and Scenic Fish Creek multiple times, rip through the Wild and Scenic Clackamas River, cross the Pacific Crest Trail and leave a permanent 50-foot wide and 40-mile long scar on the landscape. The new route would avoid its original proximity to Timothy Lake, but trades that locale to instead disturb the area adjacent to Summit Lake and the many springs nearby.

Why is NW Natural so persistent about keeping this devastating project on the table? It’s simple. It will lose $17 million if it doesn’t. In 2010 the Bradwood Landing LNG company went bankrupt, reneging on a promise to cover $17 million of the permitting and development costs of NW Natural’s Palomar Pipeline. NW Natural was left in a sticky position with its investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Unless NW Natural keeps the Palomar project alive, it will have to account for that $17 million dollar loss to its shareholders and the SEC. This will not bode well for NW Natural’s bottom line and it begs the question: will NW Natural ever admit that Palomar is truly dead or will it perpetually revise this proposal to avoid investor scrutiny?

The prospect of continually combatting massive energy companies with hundreds of millions of dollars to waste on speculative energy development may cause some to shrink away from the task, but Bark is committed to this fight and will not walk away until the Palomar Pipeline is completely off the table.

*** To ensure that NW Natural knows that opposition to Palomar remains strong please join us in a Day of Action to Protect Mt. Hood from NW Natural on Thursday, May 26th (http://bark-out.org/event.php?id=622). This Day of Action coincides with the annual NW Natural Shareholders Meeting. We will host in-person and on-line actions all day on May 26th so mark your calendar and get ready to take a stand for Mt. Hood. Contact Olivia at (503) 331-0374 to plug in to our day of action. ***