ORLEANS COUNTY – Concerns are growing in North America over plans for transporting crude oil derived from Canadian tar sands through pipelines - possibly through the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
Energy transportation company Enbridge Inc., headquartered in Alberta, pipes tar sands crude oil from Alberta to Michigan, but has recently announced plans to send the heavy oil from Ontario to Montreal, through a pipe called Line 9.
Locally, there is concern that tar sands oil, which many say is the dirtiest oil on earth, could be shipped through North Troy to West Burke and Victory, VT, into New Hampshire, and to the coast of Maine for export through the existing Portland Montreal line.
There was a plan in 2008, called Trailbreaker, to reverse the Portland Montreal pipeline that currently carries crude oil in from the port and to send tar sands oil out through it for export, reversing the flow. The plan fell through, but many are concerned, after watching Enbridge’s steps lately, that those plans are being resurrected.
A walk is scheduled today, Friday, over the route of the pipeline from West Burke to Irasburg. It’s called “Walk for a Tar Sands Free Kingdom” and it's intended to raise public awareness, said David Stember, the statewide coordinator for 350 Vermont. Many say it's way too dangerous to pipe this oil through Vermont, as a spill would be catastrophic.
Although Enbridge Inc. has not announced that it plans to reverse the flow for tar sands oil, there are concerns that it will try, and the goal is to create strong opposition and show the company there is resistance to the idea before it’s too late, Stember explained.
Enbridge is trying to find an acceptable route to ship this oil but is meeting resistance in many areas. The company may be getting “desperate,” Stember said, as it needs to have an international market for financial reasons.
The pipelines that currently run through the local area are all about 50 years old or more. Stember and others are concerned the tar sands oil is too dangerous for the pipes, as it is heavy, highly corrosive and like “liquid sandpaper.”
There was an Enbridge tar sands oil spill in Michigan that devastated the Kalamazoo Lake about two years ago. The clean-up was extensive. People were forced to evacuate their homes from dangerous toxic fumes, news media reported. The tar sands oil, instead of floating like crude oil, sank to the bottom to the lake, making cleanup a nightmare.
Walk organizers say their mission is to “rally our neighbors to defend our land.”
The walkers will leave West Burke at 10 a.m. and camp Friday night in Barton where Bread and Puppet Theater performers are expected. The next day walkers will arrive in Irasburg at noon at the town fair, to be greeted by a welcoming committee. The group will have a booth at the fair to generate awareness about tar sands oil in Vermont.