New Resolutions in Vermont Add to Growing Anti-Tar Sands Momentum in U.S. and Canada
Twenty-eight Vermont towns added their voices this week to the chorus of national and international; opposition to tar sands expansion by passing “tar sands free” and related tar sands resolutions in the past two days. This recent batch of local resolutions brings the total number to 33 in the region, and 49 when including resolutions in QuÃ©bec. The U.S. resolutions state concerns about the environmental and public health hazards of tar sands or explicitly oppose sending tar sands through ExxonMobil’s Portland-Montreal Pipeline.
Tar sands oil is a particularly dirty form of oil that utilizes a carbon-intensive process to transform the tar into usable oil. The State Department just reported that the tar sands in Keystone XL will release up to 19 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Tar sands spills are particularly risky and difficult to clean-up given the oil’s unique properties that cause the oil to sink in water.
“Yesterday, Vermonters, in towns large and small, sent a very clear message that we are unified in our opposition to the proposed tar sands pipeline,” said Max Tracy, Burlington City Councilor, Ward 2. “I think that folks across the state realize that the risks associated with the pipeline are far too great and that we must become less dependent on fossil fuels, not more dependent on them.”
“Passage of this resolution at the local level sends a message to Montpelier that there is opposition to Tar Sands oil passing through Vermont,” Phil Pouech, Select Board Member from Hinesburg, VT. “Additionally it sends a message to the Canadian government that Hinesburg is concerned about tar sands oil’s impact to climate change”
On the heels of the 40,000 person Forward on Climate rally in DC, these 49 municipal resolutions showcase the growing opposition to the development and transport of toxic tar sands oilâvia the Keystone XL or other proposed tar sands pipelines.
A scheme being pursued by Enbridge, perpetrator of the disastrous 2010 tar sands spill in Kalamazoo, and the companies behind ExxonMobil-owned Portland-Montreal Pipeline would reverse the flow of an existing pipeline in order to ship tar sands into the region.
“The City of Portland, Maine is seriously considering a resolution against tar sands oil,” said Councilor Dave Marshall, Chair of the Transportation, Sustainability, and Energy Committee. “Pipelines that carry tar sands oil are more risky, which makes the prospect of using an ancient pipeline to bring tar sands oil through Maine a scary prospect. It is even more concerning when the pipeline runs through the watershed of Sebago Lake, perhaps the best drinking water supply in the world. Additionally, the pipeline ends in South Portland, where the Fore River delta meets Casco Bay, a rich marine habitat and the key to our tourist industry. Portland has everything to lose, and nothing to gain from transportation of tar sands oil through our region and the State of Maine.”
Just last week, eighteen House and Senate members, including Chellie Pingree, sent a letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry to require a permit and an environmental impact review of any attempt to reverse the flow of ExxonMobil’s Portland-Montreal Pipeline in order to move tar sands from Canada to Maine.
“I have been thrilled to see so many Waterford residents attending community presentations over the past few months to educate themselves about tar sands oil and how it would affect us here in town,” says Waterford resident Paula Easton. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. And the pipeline company and its oil industry allies showed up in force in our town to oppose the resolution.” Waterford, Maine adopted a resolution by a vote of the town meeting on March 2.
Since Burlington, VT passed New England’s first “tar sands free” resolution in December, Canadian oil and pipeline companies and even Alberta’s Environment Minister have paid close attention to the region and the “tar sands free” movement. Despite the vocal opposition, the region remains a critical component of the tar sand industry’s expansion plans.
Some of the “tar sands free” resolutions that many of the municipalities have ratified also suggest the towns will want to avoid any tar sands transported on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are all heavily dependent on a clean environment for recreation, tourism, and the economy at large. The region has also been at the forefront of many political movements that have gone on to gain momentum in other parts of the country.
In Quebec, local governments have been passing resolutions since 2009 to tell the provincial government to undertake full and comprehensive reviews of human and environmental impacts before allowing tar sands to flow on the Portland-Montreal Pipeline. To date, 12 towns and 4 county governments have adopted such resolutions.
Below is the full list of New England towns that have passed “tar sands free” resolutions:
â¢ East Montpelier
â¢ Grand Isle
â¢ Montpelier (VT capital)