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

June 19, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine - 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 the 61-year-old pipeline runs along Sebago Lake, the Androscoggin and Crooked rivers, and ends at Casco Bay.

"All of those are really significant waterways for Maine and provide a lot of drinking water and a lot of recreational opportunities for Mainers, so the risk is too high."

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.

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 that investments in renewable energy sources should take precedence.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME