Newcastle News Guest Editorial Hits PSE’s Shoddy Safety Record

Here is the “Guest Opinion” by Larry Johnson published in the June 6, 2014 issue of the Newcastle News:

After having lived in Newcastle for the past 10 years next to the PSE power lines and the Olympic gas pipelines, my wife and I first gave little thought to PSE’s proposed “Energize Eastside” project that contemplates Olympus as part of one of two pre-selected routes an upgrade in PSE’s equipment might take. After all, these “H” poles date back to the 1960s and need to be replaced or removed at some point, we figured.

But then we learned things. The proposed new poles would be twice the height of the current ones, as high as 12-story buildings, and the increase in voltage from 115,000 volts to 230,000 volts would quadruple the power flowing through the lines and add to dangerous EMFs (electromagnetic fields). In addition, the new poles would require much bigger cement foundations that would require heavy equipment and massive vibrations to settle them into the soil, all within narrow 100’ easements and over and near gas pipelines that are 50+ years old. In 1999 this was the same Olympic gas pipeline that was ruptured in Bellingham by a mere backhoe. This rupture allowed jet fuel under pressure to escape, causing an explosion and fires that killed three youths and resulted in massive property damage.

Is there really no alternative to PSE’s risking our lives? Is that sane?

Can PSE guarantee our safety? “We have done this before,” they say, “we have a good relationship with the Olympic Pipeline Company, and we are a gas company, too.” In other words, “Trust us,” says PSE. But what PSE will never tell you in their multimillion-dollar PR blitz is that in 2008 PSE was fined a record $1.25 million by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for having falsified gas pipeline safety inspection records over a span of four years! And we are to trust them to care about our safety?

PSE is a private for-profit utility owned by Australians and Canadians who don’t have to live daily with the consequences of running 18 miles of industrial blight through our Eastside cities. We do.

This is not a case of “NIMBY” (“Not In My Back Yard”). This project should be built in nobody’s back yard. To learn more and add your voice to oppose PSE’s ill-considered project, go to www.sane-eastside-energy.orgwww.CENSE.org and www.lakecorridor.org.

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