Friday, April 27, 2012

Opposition organizes to Canada-New England tarsands pipeline

A proposal by Canadian Energy giant Enbridge, Inc. to partially reverse the flow of a Canadian pipeline has received 41,000 comments in opposition.

The reversal is the first step in a plan to ship tarsands oil through New England in order to access East Coast and overseas markets.

Comments to the Canadian National Energy Board (NEB) expressed concerns about the environmental and public health impacts of the proposal.

The NEB, the Canadian federal agency that oversees permitting interprovincial pipelines, is reviewing Enbridge's proposal to reverse the flow direction of a portion of its aging 62-year-old pipeline to move tar sands crude approximately 125 miles from Sarnia to the Westover Oil Terminal, outside of Hamilton, Ontario. Pipeline companies have sent clear signals that the real intent is a long-range plan to ship tar sands oil further on through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to tankers in Portland harbor for Eastern U.S. and overseas markets.

"A more responsible approach would be for the Canadian Energy Board to order an investigation into the full environmental impact of the larger project, including the safety implications of shipping tar sands and impacts on the environment, waterways and communities and carbon pollution from burning tar sands oil," said Jim Murphy, senior counsel at NWF. "Enbridge is trying to skirt scrutiny and downplay their goals by breaking the plan into smaller pieces. The public isn't fooled. New Englanders are opposed to tar sands in our region and demand a transparent process."

The latest permit application follows Enbridge's 2008 effort, a pipeline project called "Trailbreaker" to move tar sands oil 750 miles from mining operations in Alberta through Ontario and Quebec and across New England to Portland, Maine, where the crude would be loaded onto tankers for export. Purportedly due to the economic downturn, Enbridge temporarily shelved the project.

"The people of Vermont do not want to live side-by-side with the dirtiest fuel in existence flowing through our communities, threatening to seep into our streams and lakes and pollute our natural resources. The Canadian government should stop this spurious scheme," said Steve Crowley, chair of the Vermont Sierra Club. "Not only can pipelines rupture, pumping stations can break down too, wreaking untold harm on a community."

Alberta tar sands oil is a heavily-polluting type of viscous crude oil, a mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen, that must be diluted before it can be pumped through pipelines. Diluted bitumen is more corrosive on pipelines than conventional oil and harder to clean up when spilled, as proven by the devastating spill of over 800,000 gallons from an Enbridge pipeline of over one million gallons into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010.

The coalition of U.S. and Canadian public interest and environmental groups leading efforts to stop the Trailbreaker pipeline include:
  • Conservation Law Foundation
  • Environmental Defense Canada
  • Environment Maine
  • Environment Northeast
  • Ăˆquiterre
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Natural Resources Council of Maine
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Sierra Club

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