The owner of a crude oil pipeline that runs between Maine and Montreal, crossing a portion of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, wants Vermont environmental regulators to reconsider a ruling that determined if the company seeks to transport tar sands oil in the pipeline, it must receive approval under Vermont’s environmental review law know as Act 250.
The District 7 Environmental Commission coordinator ruled on April 15th that the if Portland Pipeline Corp. decides to move Canadian tar sands oil through its existing pipeline, it would be a significant change to the existing pipeline and therefore warrants new review under Act 250. Tar Sands is a heavy, viscous oil that is initially a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the bitumen must be mixed with diluents for pipeline transportation. It is also pumped at higher pressures. The American Petroleum Institute is not involved, but is following, the proceedings. Vermont Spokesman Joe Choquette says the request for reconsideration is simply part of a process.
Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Sandra Levine says Portland Pipeline’s request for reconsideration is mostly procedural, but has the effect of delaying a needed appeal, pending a decision on this request.
Portland Pipeline claims the District Environmental Commission coordinator who issued the decision got the facts wrong and it must be reconsidered. National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel Jim Murphy is a critic of the pipeline potentially carrying tar sands.
In its request, Portland Pipeline Company says it has no plans to convert the pipeline for tar sands oil. But Murphy counters that the company has also made clear that if tar sands is available to transport, it is willing to shift. He also notes that approval is being sought to allow tar sands transport in its Montreal pipeline, which connects to the New England line. Murphy says those are strong indications that Portland Pipeline will move to transport tar sands through New England.
Calls to representatives of the Portland Pipeline Company were not returned in time for this broadcast.