Barely two days after thirteen more Vermont towns officially voiced their opposition to allowing tar sands oil to be piped across our state, the Canadian government has given the green light to begin reversing the flow in the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline so that tar sands heavy crude can begin its journey to eastern seaboard refineries.
In order to reach U.S. refineries, a most likely route would run right through the state of Vermont, via the Portland-Montreal pipeline, an old and potentially unsafe conduit for the sticky stuff.
Quite apart from the doomsday potential of tar sands oil emissions to put the final nail in the coffin of the biosphere, there is a very real possibility that, along the way, the corrosive sludge will so undermine the integrity of the pipeline that it may rupture from the strain, spilling tons and tons of the viscous toxin out onto Vermont’s lush green valleys. The result could be an economic and environmental calamity such as Vermont has never seen.
“It is time to send a clear message that tar sands growth stops here,” said Johanna Miller, Energy Program Director at Vermont Natural Resources Council. “In the wake of this Canadian decision, it is crucial that the State Department make it clear that a Presidential Permit, accompanied by a full environmental impact study, be required before oil companies take one more step toward using Vermont as a highway for the dirtiest oil on the planet.”
“The continued devastation of climate change demands that we keep tar sands oil in the ground and out of Vermont,” said Sandra Levine with the Conservation Law Foundation. “This decision brings tar sands oil one step closer to Vermont, but Vermonters are committed to using every tool available, including Act 250, to stop tar sands in its tracks.”
It’s the eleventh hour for proaction to sustain life as we know it, and Vermont is uniquely positioned, in this case, as a surprisingly potent gate-keeper.
the more routes are blocked, the longer it will take to develop one of the world’s dirtiest sources of fuel, and likely the more expensive and difficult it will be to do so. “It’s not a certainty that this resource will be developed, and for the sake of our climate and future, it must not be,” (says Miller) “Vermont can play a meaningful role in this.”
Vermont is also possessed of a unique tool with which to hold the line. Already the bane of sprawl, strip malls and big box stores, Act 250 could prove to be a hero of this planetary drama as well:
In order to bring tar sands through Vermont and Northern New England, it is likely Portland Pipe Line Corporation would require approval from the U.S. State Department. Pursuant to a September 2013 ruling from the Act 250 District Commissioner in St. Johnsbury, the company would also need an Act 250 permit.
A coalition of the regions strongest environmental advocates, including the Vermont Natural Resources Council, VPIRG, 350 Vermont, the Sierra Club, the Conservation Law Foundation, National Wildlife Fund and the Natural Resource Defense Council is calling on our most powerful leaders, Governor Shumlin,Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Peter Welch to use all of their influence to ensure that this environmentally irresponsible proposal does not escape the most rigorous review.
All environmentally concerned Vermonters should join them in the effort to stop the Vermont phase of this foolhardy scheme.