New Report Sounds the Alarm on Tar Sands Pipeline Scheme in Vermont

June 19, 2012

Image Courtesy of Crowley Photos

Broad coalition says Vermonters must reject increased pollution and threat of oil spills

Montpelier, VT  (June 19, 2012) – A controversial pipeline plan threatens drinking water and more than a dozen beloved natural areas in Central Canada and New England according to a new report released today. A broad coalition of organizations are defying  plans from Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge Energy to bring tar sands oil through Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine in a pipeline reversal scheme commonly referred to as “Trailbreaker.”  The advocates say the plan is unsafe and that a tar sands oil spill could harm Vermont’s waterways, wildlife and tourism economy.

The report, Going in Reverse: The Tar Sands Threat to Central Canada and New England, outlines an array of threats associated with the controversial tar sands, often referred to as the dirtiest oil on the planet, including unique corrosive properties that the United States federal government is currently studying to better understand whether the highly-corrosive, low-grade petroleum can be safely transported.

“This pipeline plan puts Vermont’s rivers, lakes and streams in jeopardy and provides no benefits.  The company behind it is responsible for the largest tar sands oil spill in U.S. history, which they still haven’t cleaned up, “ said Johanna Miller of Vermont Natural Resources Council.  “Oil giants don’t call the shots in here in Vermont and they can’t be allowed to put our state’s natural treasures in jeopardy.”

In late May, Enbridge announced it would reverse the flow of its 62-year-old pipeline bringing oil from Sarnia to Montreal.  Reversing the pipeline would open the door to another pipeline reversal which was floated by Enbridge and the Portland-Montreal Pipeline Company in 2008 enabling tar sands to flow through Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire to Portland, Maine for export. The tar sands industry has been in a desperate search for a port of export since the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway projects have become mired in controversy.  The groups expressed concern that these proposals are being advanced by the same pipeline company responsible for the largest tar sands spill in U.S. history resulting the devastation of the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan.

“This really ancient pipeline has already spilled, including a spill 35 years ago that fouled Lake Memphemagog,”  said Curtis Fisher of National Wildlife Federation. “The pipeline cuts across the Missisquoi, Black, Moose, and Connecticut Rivers, which all are critical wildlife habitats and attract a large number of tourists.  Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is known for being the state’s most pristine area.  Vermonters don’t want to risk our beloved natural resources to help dirty oil companies make billions and dramatically increase climate change, especially after Enbridge recently had a major dirty tar sands spill in Michigan in the Kalamazoo River”.

As the report details, tar sands is not like the conventional crude oil that currently flows through the pipeline.  It is far more corrosive, is more likely to spill, and much harder to clean up when it does spill.

“Tar sands oil is like hot liquid sandpaper that corrodes pipelines, creating a greater risk of devastating oil spills along the route,” said Danielle Droitsch, NRDC Senior Attorney. “We cannot afford to blindly accept the climate and environmental dangers that come packed with ever-increasing amounts of tar sands being shoved south of the border. Trailbreaker isn’t alone—it is part of a stealth invasion of the U.S. from Canada’s dirty oil—it puts Central Canada and the Northeast squarely on the front lines.”

Tar sands expansion to Central Canada and the U.S. northeast also raises concerns about impacts on climate. The U.S. Library of Congress’ research arm released a report in May of this year confirming tar sands as the transportation fuel with the some of the highest levels of climate-changing carbon pollution on the planet.

”Vermont has just experienced one of its warmest winters,” said Sandra Levine of Conservation Law Foundation.   “It is part of a disturbing trend. Vermont is pursuing a clean energy future in large part because Vermonters know that we depend on cold weather industries like skiing, and sugaring.  Tar sands are a carbon bomb that will catapult us past several dangerous climate tipping points.  It has no part in Vermont’s clean energy future.”
The groups called on regulators to reject Enbridge’s efforts to reverse its pipeline through Canada and asks Canadian and U.S. regulators to more thoroughly review plans.

”Tar sands present devastating and still unknown risks.  It is not conventional crude oil and regulators need to stop treating it as such,” said Ben Walsh, of VPIRG.  “We need new safety regulations and the utmost environmental scrutiny for any project involving the transportation of tar sands.”

“These companies have had a certain amount of trouble persuading Nebraskans and Texans to let their tarsands sludge endanger those states,” said Bill McKibbon, President and Co-founder of 350.org. “My guess is that here in Vermont people will be at least as wary. We know that the carbon it contains makes another Irene that much more likely by warming the atmosphere. It’s a bad bargain all around for Vermont.”

The full report can be found at http://www.nrdc.org/energy/going-in-reverse.asp

Additional information on tar sands oil can be found at http://www.nwf.org/global-warming/policy-solutions/drilling-and-mining/tar-sands.aspx

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