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October 25, 2012

Tar Sands: Sneaking Into New England

Syncrude tar sands operations from the air looking south towards the Suncor upgrader along the Athabasca River on the left photo by david dodge pembina inst
Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. and the Exxon-Mobil-owned Portland Montreal Pipeline Company appear to be reviving a tar sands oil pipeline plan, called Trailbreaker, which would transport tar sands oil through some of the most important natural and cultural landscapes in Eastern Canada and New England.

The Trailbreaker plan would reverse the direction of oil flowing through two major existing pipelines -- Line 9 and the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line -- along an approximately 750-mile route through Ontario, Quebec, and northern New England, ending at Portland, Maine's Casco Bay, where the tar sands oil would be shipped to refineries elsewhere on the Atlantic coast.

This week a coalition of groups fighting tar sands discovered that Enbridge sent a 'pre-application filing' to Canada's National Energy shows Enbridge plans not only to reverse the flow of oil through the pipeline to Montreal, but also to change what the pipeline can carry from normal oil to more dangerous tar sands oil, and dramatically expand the amount of oil carried by the pipeline.

"We've been concerned for months Enbridge is planning to ship more risky tar sands oil across Canada’s most populated region, but the company repeatedly denied that was its intention," said Adam Scott of Canada's Environmental Defence. "Enbridge's plan could put the drinking water of millions of people at risk of a tar sands oil spill, all in the name of exporting more raw tar sands oil south."

Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet. It's also more corrosive to pipes and more dangerous to ship through pipelines, putting water and farmland along pipeline routes at greater risk of oil spills. When tar sands oil spills, it is much harder and more costly to clean up than conventional oil, and it causes more damage to human and environmental health.

And that's just the transportation of tar sands oil. Tar sands oil is mined from a black sticky substance called bitumen, found beneath the vast boreal forest in Alberta, Canada. To extract tar sands crude, oil companies clear-cut ancient forest, then strip mine the soil beneath it, using huge quantities of fresh water and natural gas to separate the oil from bitumen. The process leaves behind giant toxic lakes that are linked to abnormally high rates of cancer in neighboring communities and are large enough to be seen from space.

Take action now against the expansion of tar sands oil pipelines.

Photo: A Syncrude tar sands operations in Canada from the air along the Athabasca River on the left. Photo by David Dodge of the Pembina Institute.

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