Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic
Keeping Tar Sands out of New England
In addition to the well-publicized battles over the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, an equally important struggle is brewing over a proposal to ship tar sands oil through an existing pipeline that runs from Montreal through Vermont and New Hampshire to Portland, Maine. Working with the National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, and multiple regional and local organizations, the Clinic is fighting to keep tar sands oil from flowing through New England.
The Canadian tar sands are one of the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, from destruction of the boreal forest of Alberta to their huge greenhouse gas emissions—according to James Hansen, full development of these tar sands will mean "game over" for our climate. As demonstrated by spills in Michigan, Arkansas, and other locations, tar sands oil also is almost impossible to clean up once it is released into the environment.
Along with trying to transport this dirty energy south through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the giant energy companies also are seeking an eastward pipeline to Montreal, and from there to the coast through the existing Portland-Montreal Pipeline. This 60-year-old pipeline, built to transport conventional crude oil north to Canada, will experience the much greater pressures and temperatures needed to transport the thick tar sands oil. In addition to climate change impacts, tar sands oil poses substantial risks to the pristine environments of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, New Hampshire, and Maine.
In January 2013 the Clinic filed a Petition for Vermont to assert jurisdiction over the transport of tar sands oil under Act 250, Vermont's unique land-use law. In April 2013, the Northeast Kingdom District Coordinator entered a precedent-setting Jurisdictional Opinion that granted our Petition and required the pipeline operators to obtain a permit before transporting tar sands oil. We expect this to be the opening round of extensive legal proceedings concerning the shipment of tar sands oil through New England.
Request for Jurisdictional Opinion (Jan. 2013)