Company revives plans for natural gas pipeline through Custer

By Steve Guntli

Whatcom County may house a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline for a Canadian energy company.

On September 1, Steelhead LNG, an energy company based in Vancouver, B.C.  announced they would partner with Williams, a U.S. pipeline manufacturer, for the Island Gas Connector pipeline. When completed, the pipe would funnel natural gas from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, by way of Whatcom County.

The pipeline would travel through Whatcom County from Sumas to Cherry Point. From there, the pipe would traverse 47 miles underwater to a proposed LNG facility in Mill Bay, on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The pipeline would then connect with another proposed facility on the west coast of the island.

Williams has owned and operated the Northwest Pipeline, which runs through Whatcom County, since 1956. The new pipeline would be open access, meaning other companies could enter into agreements with Williams to use the pipes.

The project is in the early planning stages, so the size of the pipe, amount of LNG it can transfer and the total cost of the project have not been finalized. This is not the first time Williams has proposed a pipeline through the region. In 1999, the company submitted plans for a pipeline running almost the same route. Called the Georgia Strait Crossing, the project upset Custer residents, who claimed Williams employees had scouted locations for the pipeline on private property without permission. Some worried about the environmental impact the pipeline would have, while others were afraid for their safety, following a Bellingham pipeline explosion that killed three people in 1999. The project was officially scrapped in 2004.

Williams officials sent letters to affected Whatcom County residents on September 1, asking permission to survey their land. If all goes to plan, the pipeline would be in place by late 2020.

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