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Tar Sands Pipeline Project “Slinking Forward” Into New England

PHOTO: Apparent plans to pump abrasive tar sands oil in an aging pipeline across three New England states are sparking opposition from critics who fear water and wildlife will be imperiled. Photo courtesy NWF.
PHOTO: Apparent plans to pump abrasive tar sands oil in an aging pipeline across three New England states are sparking opposition from critics who fear water and wildlife will be imperiled. Photo courtesy NWF.
December 7, 2012

BOSTON – Training for how to clean up tar sands oil spills began in Portland, Maine this week (Tuesday and Wednesday), following an announcement by the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge a week ago that it wants to reverse its pipeline eastward to Montreal.

That could bring tar sands oil through Ontario, Quebec, and New England for export, says environmentalist Dylan Voorhees. He suspects deliberate evasiveness.

"There hasn't been a full environmental review of what this could mean to the New England states and we're in danger of this sort of slinking forward in bits and pieces without any environmental review."

Voorhees and others warn that the caustic form of crude would threaten a 62-year-old pipeline that at one point crosses the Connecticut River upstream from Massachusetts. A new National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report says tar sands spills, like one in Michigan two years ago, could contaminate water and harm wildlife.

Wildlife biologist Eric Orff warns that the abrasive form of crude – which is heated before transit – could end up in the water of the New England states it passes through.

"So you're looking at additional – we think – stresses on the pipeline, a pipeline that's already 62-years-old and certainly has not been designed, never was designed for this purpose."

Orff says the cleanup training, the application to reverse the flow of the Canadian pipeline and a move to upgrade a pumping station near the Vermont border all point to a project moving forward.

"Well, if my neighbor bought a saddle and built a barn, I would suspect something's up."

The NWF report comes shortly before the Obama administration is expected to make a decision on the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the middle of the country.



Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA