Canadian Government's Pipeline Ruling 'Brings Tar Sands Oil to New England's Doorstep,' Environmentalists Say

By Koenig, Seth | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), March 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Canadian Government's Pipeline Ruling 'Brings Tar Sands Oil to New England's Doorstep,' Environmentalists Say


Koenig, Seth, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


PORTLAND, Maine -- State environmental groups decried a decision by the Canadian government late Thursday afternoon to allow the reversal and expansion of a pipeline leading to east Montreal, where they say controversial tar sands oil can now be pumped almost to the New England border.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club, 350 Maine and Environment Maine have long considered the change of direction of the 397-mile section of Enbridge Line 9 -- from North Westover, Ontario, to Montreal -- the final link before the Portland Pipe Line Corp. seeks to reverse its pipe through Maine and complete energy giant Enbridge's path from the oil sands of Alberta to tankers in the Atlantic port of South Portland.

Currently, Line 9 and the connected 236-mile-long Portland- Montreal line pump from east to west, carrying the less controversial crude oil inland from the tankers.

"Today's decision brings toxic tar sands oil right to New England's doorstep, and one step away from flowing south through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine," said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, in a statement. "This decision should put Maine on high alert for the threat of tar sands transportation through our state. That would be unacceptable. Now is the time for the U.S. State Department to commit to an environmental review of any tar sands project in our state."

Soon after the Canadian government's announcement, Maine Sen. Angus King called for a presidential permit requirement and environmental impact study of any proposal to let the oil flow through Maine.

"My constituents have consistently expressed concern at the lack of any environmental review of a project of this nature, given that there appears to be no substantive state review process that would be triggered," King said in a release. "Yet, this pipeline runs through very important -- and ecologically fragile -- parts of Maine, including Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for the greater Portland area."

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said the decision shows the need for regulatory oversight of the pipeline that runs across Maine.

"This just shows why a new presidential permit should be required for reversing the flow of any pipeline that comes into the United States. If Maine people are to have a say in whether tar sands oil is pumped through our state, the administration is going to have to require a new presidential permit and environmental review," Pingree said in a release.

"The decision by the Energy Board brings tar sands oil into our backyard and really raises the stakes for Maine," Pingree said. "Communities across the state have said they don't want tar sands crude flowing through environmentally sensitive areas like Sebago Lake. The decision today makes it even more likely that we could soon be facing that possibility."

Representatives of the Portland Pipe Line Corp. have long argued the company has no plans to reverse its flow and that Enbridge's eastward path could extend from Montreal to coastal Canadian ports instead of South Portland. …

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