Quantcast

Pipeline Approved to Bring Tar Sands to Montreal and New England's Doorstep

The National Energy Board of Canada approved this week a proposal by pipeline giant Enbridge to reverse and increase the flow of crude oil, including tar sands oil, in its pipeline from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec—for the first time directly connecting Alberta’s tar sands to Montreal. This means that tar sands oil—or “diluted bitumen”—can come to Montreal, where the Portland-Montreal Pipeline is then an obvious route for the oil industry to access an export port to send tar sands to the world market.

Photo credit: Natural Resources Council of Maine

Citizens, conservation groups, outdoor recreational interests and elected officials in Maine expressed alarm at the decision and called on Maine’s elected officials to ensure the U.S. State Department requires a new Presidential Permit review before tar sands could ever flow through Maine.

“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. “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.”

The Portland-Montreal pipeline passes along and under the Androscoggin River, crosses the Crooked River six times throughout its watershed, passes alongside Sebago Lake and under a cove of the lake itself, and ends on Casco Bay in South Portland.

In 2013, South Portland passed a temporary moratorium on tar sands export infrastructure, and the towns and citizens of Casco, Harrison, Otisfield, Portland, Raymond and Waterford all passed resolutions expressing serious concern with or downright opposition to tar sands oil flowing through the pipeline in their towns.

“Last year Casco passed a resolution of opposition because of threats to our waters, recreation, and local economy,” said Mary Fernandez, chair of the Casco Selectboard. “We don’t want to end up like Mayflower, Arkansas or Kalamazoo, Michigan. We called on our federal delegation to help us, and that’s all the more important now.”

"Tar sands pose the most significant threat to Sebago Lake that I've seen in my 34 years of fishing on the lake,” said Eliot H. Stanley, Board Member for Conservation, Sebago Lake Anglers Association. “The fact is that a tar sands pipeline spill into the Sebago-Crooked River watershed would devastate the lake, its fisheries, and southern Maine's clean drinking water supply. We cannot permit another Kalamazoo River catastrophe. This irresponsible action by the Canadian Energy Board poses a threat to all Maine citizens and public officials."

“We’ve been expecting today’s news, and it only redoubles our commitment to keep tar sands out of Maine by preventing it from being shipped out of Casco Bay. For our coast, our water and our climate, we simply will not allow tar sands to flow through our beautiful state,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.

In 2013, in response to pressure from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Congressman Mike Michaud, and others, the U.S. State Department, which has jurisdiction over interstate oil pipelines, officially told the Portland Pipe Line Corporation that it should notify the State Department about plans to reverse its own pipeline to carry tar sands. However, the agency has not yet announced whether it would require a new Presidential Permit or any environmental review for a tar sands reversal of the Maine pipeline 

"Maine people are counting on the Obama Administration, with the support of Maine's Congressional delegation, to require a new Presidential Permit process and an objective environmental review of the risks posed by pumping dirty tar sands oil through our communities, rivers, lakes and bays, including Sebago Lake and Casco Bay," said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director.

Hundreds of Maine citizens have written to or called Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, urging them to take a firm public stand for a Presidential Permit and environmental review.

“As Mainers, we have to do everything we can to protect Sebago Lake, our largest public water supply, and its surrounding wetlands,” said Bob Klotz of 350 Maine. “All we have to do is look to the Kalamazoo River spill that occurred in 2010 and its 40 miles of still-contaminated waterways to know this is a disaster we can’t allow to happen here in Maine.” 

Also last year, citizens in South Portland brought forward a citizen-initiated ordinance to protect the city from construction of a tar sands export terminal, including the construction of smokestacks on the waterfront required to burn off toxic gases emitted when loading tar sands onto tankers. When the ordinance fell just short of passage, the South Portland City Council adopted a six-month moratorium on any tar sands project in the city in order to provide time for drafting a new ordinance with the same purpose.

“Considering today’s decision, I’m particularly relieved that our city has established a moratorium on a tar sands project here,” said Eve Raimon, a citizen leader with Protect South Portland. “This makes the work of drafting and adopting a permanent ordinance to restrict a tar sands export terminal on our waterfront all the more essential and urgent.”

In its public statements over the past two years, the Portland Pipe Line Company has vacillated multiple times between denial and enthusiasm for a tar sands project for Maine. After a stint of denials of an active project last fall, oil companies ran ads in South Portland newspapers this week promoting Canadian “oil sands.”

Citizens and public interest organizations in Quebec and Ontario strongly oppose sending tar sands through their communities and across their watersheds.

In 2010, about 14,000 citizens from the New England region sent comments to the National Energy Board opposing the tar sands reversal of Line 9. Included were approximately 2,000 from Maine.

“After today’s disappointing news from Canada, Maine needs to send a strong, clear message that we will not be next,” said Voorhees. “We again call on our Congressional delegation to lead and defend Maine’s interests.”

Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINES and TAR SANDS pages for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Hardeman is the plaintiff in the first U.S. federal trial claiming that Roundup causes cancer. NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.