New Englanders Join to Petition U.S. on Tar Sands Regs
BOSTON - More than 55 groups and individuals are petitioning the federal government to halt plans to pump corrosive tar-sands oil from Canada to American ports for export.
Current regulations are inadequate, they say, and raise the risk of catastrophic spills. They're out to stop both the Keystone XL pipeline and a plan to use an existing, aging pipeline to send tar-sands oil across New England to Portland, Maine.
While a spill where the pipeline crosses the Connecticut River in northern New Hampshire wouldn't pose much risk to the Bay State, said Jim Murphy. lead counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, the concern is that ocean-going tankers might bring the oil south to mid-Atlantic refineries.
"So there's kind of more of an Exxon Valdez-type risk, immediately, to Massachusetts," Murphy said.
Portland Montreal Pipeline Co., which is majority owned by Exxon Mobil, has said it welcomes the opportunity to use its 62-year-old oil pipeline to the Portland harbor.
Detractors say the tar sands that Canadian companies want to sell and ship overseas, would be heated and under pressure, and are especially corrosive. Murphy said the Massachusetts coastline would be the focus of concern if the tar-sands oil is piped to Portland Harbor.
"It looks like there's a push to add refining capacity in the mid-Atlantic," he said, "which could very likely take tankers through Massachusetts waters and particularly Cape Cod."
Plenty of Massachusetts folks vacation in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, Murphy said, all of which are crossed by the aging pipeline.
"The northern stretch of the Connecticut River would become a very different place in the mind of Massachusetts residents - at least in terms of a place to go and have a pristine nature experience - if it became a toxic waste zone," he said.
From 2007 through 2010, the petitioners say, tar-sands oil pipelines in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota spilled almost three times more crude oil per pipeline mile than the U.S. national average.