The reenvisioned pipeline is called Trail West, and NW Natural stakeholders are eager to see it built.
Bark first became aware of NW Natural’s renewed interest in building an LNG pipeline across the southern region of Mt. Hood National Forest in 2017 when our allies at Columbia Riverkeeper noted the route in NW Natural’s annual planning documents. This route was previously proposed by NW Natural for the Palomar LNG pipeline back in 2008, which was soundly defeated by a coalition of land owners, environmental groups, fossil fuel resisters, and broad public opposition that emerged following Bark’s Hike the Pipe campaign. The reenvisioned pipeline is called Trail West. NW Natural and Transcanada stakeholders are eager to see it built.
Bark and a coalition of community members and organizations won the campaign to stop the Palomar pipeline in 2011. Central to that effort, Bark staff and volunteers hiked the entire length of the 47-mile corridor, documenting the watershed conditions, plant community, wildlife use, and other ecological conditions, using the information gathered to challenge the project through the National Environmental Policy Act processes for public review of federal actions. Bark’s boots-on-the-ground efforts identified many concerns about the corridor, including:
“Construction of the pipeline corridor would initially require more than 700 acres of clearcutting, including through several old growth forests. The pipeline route crosses 15 streams and rivers, as well as countless unnamed tributaries, drainages and wetlands. In addition, the construction and maintenance of this pipeline will require use of currently decommissioned roads, as well as construction of new roads for access to remote parts of the pipeline route.”
Bark has been tracking all activity related to fossil fuel development across Mt. Hood since 2005 when the Bush Administration directed the Bureau of Land Management to identify priority routes for fossil fuel, hydrogen, and electricity transmission across the west. These routes are designated as the “West-Wide Energy Corridors“. West-wide energy corridors are considered the preferred locations for energy transport projects on lands managed by the BLM and are intended to facilitate long-distance transport of oil, gas, or hydrogen via pipelines and transmission and distribution of high-voltage electricity via transmission and distribution lines. The prospect of a Trail West Pipeline would utilize the route designated as Corridor 230-248, the same route as the proposed Palomar Pipeline.
In July, 2009, Bark joined several other conservation groups in a lawsuit challenging the WWEC EIS and associated energy corridor designations. Our particular concern was proposed Corridor 230-248.
On July 11th, 2012, the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Department of Energy and the Department of Justice reached a Settlement Agreement on the challenge to the WWEC EIS. In the settlement, Corridor 230-248 was designated a “Corridor of Concern” as it would impact critical habitat, National Register of Historic Places, Pacific Crest Trail, Clackamas Wild and Scenic River and other “eligible” segments under Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and conflicting with Northwest Forest Plan Late Successional Reserves.
Industry push for a new Trail West pipeline along this same route is eminent because of unceasing drive for expansion of fossil fuel pipeline networks across the PNW and Canada.
Proposed development of the methanol refinery industry in Kalama, WA, a partnership of the innocuously named, NW Innovation Works, could be restocked with LNG via Trail West connection from the existing GTN pipeline in crossing eastern Oregon from to Malin. Jordan Cove development could be supported by greater connectivity as well.
NW Natural and Gas Transmission Northwest have, in fact, been in discussion about this route since 2017 as an alternative to the I-5 pipeline to supply gas to the proposed Kalama refinery or to free up capacity in other pipelines to supply it. Indeed, the Gas Association estimated that the Trail West Pipeline may begin operating in 4th Quarter of 2021.
In July 2015, the Northwest Gas Association stated, “a large enough project (roughly over 150,000 Dth/d of demand) would likely need new infrastructure regardless of their preferred gas transportation type simply due to high utilization of the existing pipeline systems.”4 The Gas Association affirmed its perspective again in its 2016 Gas Outlook, stating that new methanol-related gas demand could push the regional pipeline system to an “inflection point,” prompting new gas pipeline development.