Vermont groups call on U.S. State Department to require full environmental review of cross-border tar sands pipeline proposal before it is too late
Canada’s mega-oil pipeline company Enbridge filed regulatory documents today to move plans forward to reverse its Line 9B pipeline bringing oil – likely to include tar sands – eastward to Montreal. The announcement essentially opens the door to bringing the corrosive tar sands through Ontario, Quebec, and Vermont for export from Portland, Maine. With this application, the evidence becomes overwhelming that oil companies Enbridge and Exxon-Mobil subsidiary Portland Pipe Line Corporation are planning to send tar sands through eastern Canada and northern New England. Citizens and diverse groups called on the Canadian National Energy Board to review the full scope of this tar sands plan, and on the U.S. State Department to require a full environmental review of any proposal to bring tar sands through Vermont.
“Exxon Mobil’s Portland to Montreal pipeline runs through my property and threatens some of the places that are precious to all Vermonters, like the Connecticut River, Missisiquoi River and Victory State Forest,” said Brent Kinsley, an Irasburg resident. “We won’t stand for our land, water and wildlife being imperiled by dirty fuel we don’t need.” Exxon’s pipeline crosses Mr. Kinsley’s hill farm.
Tar sands pose huge threats. When it spills, it causes more damage to human and environmental health than conventional crude, and is nearly impossible to clean-up even at enormous expense as evidenced by the 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River which is still being cleaned today and stands as the most expensive inland pipeline spill in history. Even in its more refined form of synthetic crude oil, tar sands has an enormous environmental and climate footprint In today’s formal application to Canada’s National Energy Board, Enbridge seeks to:
- Reverse the flow of its “Line 9” pipeline to Montreal to carry oil from west to east.
- Transport “heavy crude” from western Canada, which will likely include tar sands oil.
- Increase the flow of the pipeline by 25 percent to 300,000 barrels per day.
“Clearly there are efforts underway to bring dirty, dangerous tar sands to Vermont's door. Vermonters –and Vermont leaders – are committed to an efficient, renewable energy future. This increasingly imminent plan to move tar sands through Vermont's majestic Northeast Kingdom to the Maine coast undermines every effort Vermont has made to combat climate change and chart a new, clean energy course,” said Johanna Miller, Energy Program Director for Vermont Natural Resources Council.
The National Energy Board must review all major pipeline projects or modifications in Canada, and has already approved reversal of part of Line 9 between Sarnia, Ontario and Montreal. Now, Enbridge is asking the NEB to approve the last leg of the path to Montreal. There is no similar review process in the United States. The closest analogy is a Presidential Permit for cross-border oil pipelines, which can be granted by the U.S. State Department and can require a full environmental review of pipeline projects.
“It is crucial that any tar sands project impacting Vermont be given thorough and searching review by the Obama Administration,” said Jim Murphy, Senior Counsel for National Wildlife Federation. “We are confident that if an honest evaluation of climate impacts, spill risks and renewable alternatives occurs, President Obama will conclude this likely tar sands project is not in the national interest, and should not be allowed.”
“Concerns over this project have united citizens and organizations across Vermont and New England,” said David Stember of 350.org. “Since it started becoming clear Exxon had plans to bring tar sands to New England, thousands of citizens have stood up in various forums renouncing dirty fuels and asking for a climate-friendly, clean energy future.”
Enbridge has previously denied it is seeking to bring tar sands east but the evidence is mounting that the company wishes to bring tar sands through Ontario, Quebec, and then to New England. In the application, Enbridge acknowledges the line may carry “heavy crude” – a code word that indicates tar sands – and in its announcement admits that “crude oil derived from the oil sands region of Canada, sometimes called diluted bitumen or dilbit, could also be shipped on Line 9.” Dilbit is the most dangerous form of tar sands.
“The paper trail is now becoming crystal clear this project is about moving tar sands through New England,” said David Ellenbogen of the Vermont Sierra Club. “Industry denials can no longer be taken seriously. These companies are driven by profits, not the best interests of Vermont and Vermonters, and shouldn’t be trusted.”
Recent freedom of information documents revealed that in late 2011 the tar sands industry and Canadian government representatives met with Maine Governor Paul LePage last year to promote tar sands oil. In recent months, officials with Exxon subsidiary Portland Pipe Line Corporation have handed out information touting tar sands oil to pipeline pathway towns, while continuing to deny that the line would transport tar sands crude.