Reveals True Intentions to Bring Tar Sands Oil Toward Maine
Last night Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge announced plans for a massive increase in pipeline capacity to bring dirty tar sands oil from Canada to global markets via the United States. One of the biggest components of the plan is to reverse the flow of its entire crude oil pipeline between Ontario and Montreal, for the purpose of transporting tar sands crude oil east. This would be the full build-out of Enbridge’s portion of the so-called “Trailbreaker” pipeline project in development for several years. This announcement could bring tar sands oil nearly to New England. The rest of the original Trailbreaker plan would bring tar sands oil by also reversing the flow of an existing pipeline from Montreal to Portland, Maine.
“This announcement reveals Enbridge’s true intentions to bring tar sands oil to our region,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This is exactly why NRCM and others have been raising concerns since last August about dirty and dangerous tar sands coming our way. This announcement brings one of the world’s dirtiest fuels one step closer to Maine.”
In August 2011, Enbridge filed for fast-track approval of “Phase I” of this pipeline reversal. That fast-track request was rejected after NRCM and other groups opposed it, arguing that Enbridge was purposefully breaking a large pipeline project into smaller phases to attempt to hide their intentions.
After months of preparation, the National Energy Board of Canada is scheduled to hold hearings next week in Ontario about the “Phase I” reversal.
Given the new announcement of further expansion, it is unclear what will happen with these proceedings limited to “Phase I.”
“This announcement seems to prove that Enbridge was pursuing a deliberate strategy by Enbridge to avoid complete environmental review and public scrutiny for the full project,” said Voorhees.
“Enbridge repeatedly said that it is no longer pursuing Trailbreaker, but their intentions are now obvious—the only thing that has changed is the name. Even now the public doesn’t have an honest picture from Enbridge and the Portland-Montreal Pipeline Company about the plan to bring tar sands oil from Ontario to Portland for export to global markets. This entire scheme deserves full scrutiny from environmental regulators and from the public.”
In April, 41,000 citizens from the U.S. and Canada, including several thousand commenters from Maine, wrote comments to the Canadian Energy Board opposing “Phase I” of the Trailbreaker project and requesting a broader environmental review.
“This announcement is a massive proposal to bring huge amounts of one of world’s dirtiest fuels out of Canada to North America,” Voorhees said. “Not only does it have huge implications for U.S. energy policy and efforts to curb global warming, but tar sands could threaten Maine’s environment directly.” The oil pipeline from Montreal to Portland passes right alongside Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply to the entire Portland area. Tar sand oil is a thick, gooey substance that is more corrosive and acidic than conventional oil, making those pipes more susceptible to corrosion and bringing a higher risk of spills. And tar sands oil spills themselves are more toxic and difficult to clean up.
Yesterday’s announced expansion includes a proposed doubling in size of Enbridge’s Michigan pipeline, which in 2010 spilled 1.2 million gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River—a massive spill that has still not been cleaned up and is still affecting local communities.
“What if a spill like the Enbridge Kalamazoo River fiasco happened here in Maine next to Sebago Lake?” asked Voorhees. “Maine people deserve to know the facts, not only about the full scope of this pipeline reversal, but about what kind of oil would flow through the pipeline and a clear assessment of the risks to Maine people and places.”
As further evidence of the piecemeal approach to Trailbreaker, Enbridge affiliates had separately applied for a permit to build a pumping station near the Vermont-Quebec border for the purpose of reversing the flow of oil between Montreal and Portland, Maine. That permit was initially denied in March, but a re-application by the company is expected.