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Olympic Pipeline stops suing city

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Now that Olympic Pipeline has dropped its lawsuit against Federal Way, city officials are hoping to finish franchise negotiations with the utility.

Olympic filed suit in U.S. District Court July 16, alleging city officials withheld a permit to allow Olympic to inspect an anomaly in a section of pipeline until the utility agreed to sign a franchise agreement — and pay what Olympic called an “unreasonable and arbitrary” franchise fee.

The city filed legal requests for more information, specifically asking Olympic to explain why it thought the city’s franchise agreement violated federal law, but Olympic didn’t respond, city officials said. Instead, Olympic voluntarily dropped the lawsuit Oct. 14.

Olympic’s attorney was unavailable for comment.

The city and Olympic have been trying to work out a franchise agreement since 2001 — about 670 feet of Olympic’s pipeline runs under Weyerhaeuser’s East Campus development in the eastern part of the city — and city officials said they were surprised by the lawsuit because they thought negotiations were going well.

“We thought we were very close,” city manager David Moseley said, adding city officials would like to “return to where the discussions left off before we went to court.”

“While we welcome the dismissal as a positive sign, we still urge them to return to the table and finish negotiations as soon as possible,” Moseley said. “The longer Federal Way and other municipalities go without franchise agreements with Olympic, the greater the public distrust in the company will become.”

The city’s requirements in a franchise agreement would be similar to those in a permit Olympic received, though the utility hasn’t yet done the intended work, Moseley said.

“If Olympic called us today asking us to return to the bargaining table, we would be there tomorrow,” he said.

Olympic has been embroiled in controversy since 1999, when part of a line exploded in Bellingham, killing three people.

In July this year, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels accused the company of not doing enough to ensure the safety of a pipeline beneath his city. Olympic said it would inspect sections of the line.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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