MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Some residents of far northern Vermont and environmental groups asked an environmental commission on Tuesday to subject any effort to move tar sands oil through a pipeline between Montreal and Portland, Maine, to the state's land-use permitting process.
The groups, led by the Vermont chapter of the National Wildlife Federation and represented by a clinic from the Vermont Law School, say changing the current flow of the pipeline, which now carries crude oil from Portland to Montreal, should trigger the process known as Act 250.
Despite repeated denials from a Canadian pipeline company and the company that owns the 236-mile long pipeline across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that it has no plans to reverse the flow of the pipeline and move tar sands oil from Montreal to Portland, the groups believe such a plan is imminent.
"Act 250 was created to give the state and its citizens a voice in significant proposals," said Douglas Ruley of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the Vermont Law School. "We filed this request to ensure Vermont and Vermonters are heard before any tar sands oils are shipped through the state."
A Canadian company is seeking to move tar sands oil to Montreal from tar sands fields in Alberta, in the western part of the country.
A number of environmental groups think the plan is to ship that tar sands oil to Portland for export. They claim tar sands oil poses a greater threat of global warming than conventional crude oil because it contains more carbon dioxide, and it poses a greater risk of a pipeline spill because it is thicker and more corrosive.
The Canadian company that hopes to ship tar sands oil to Montreal has consistently denied it has any plans to ship the oil to Maine. The company that manages the pipeline, The Portland-Montreal Pipeline, says it has no plans to reverse the flow of the pipeline and if that ever changes, it will seek public input during the planning process.
On Saturday, about 1,000 people attended a rally in Portland protesting the possibility that tar sands could be moved through the pipeline.