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Blame Canada? Trying to Head Off Tar Sands Pipeline Through New England

June 19, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. - The risks to water and wildlife if tar sands from Alberta are sent through an existing, aging pipeline across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to Portland harbor are detailed in a report being released today by 18 organizations in New England, the U.S., and Canada. The tar sands, which Canadian companies want to sell and ship overseas, would be heated and under pressure and are especially corrosive.

Carol Oldham of the National Wildlife Federation says that at Guildhall, Vermont, the 61-year-old pipeline crosses the Connecticut River, which drains about one-third of New England's landscape.

"I think the fact that we could have a spill that would come down into Massachusetts and Connecticut is a significant risk."

No formal steps to advance the pipeline have been taken yet. Canada says it needs to get its oil reserves to market. Opponents say a pipeline project would create virtually no new jobs in the U.S. and, they say, investments in renewable energy sources should take precedence.

Oldham says spills from oil pipelines in the Midwest, not to mention the disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Prince William Sound, have raised awareness of the dangers of using the pipeline through New England.

"You know, at the time that it was built, 61 years ago, people didn't think the same sort of things about spills and that's one of our concerns, that it's an old pipeline that runs along a lot of waterways."

The report says between 2007 and 2010, tar-sands oil pipelines in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota spilled almost three times more crude oil per mile of pipeline than the U.S. national average.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - CT