New England Wakes Up to Tar Sands Oil Line Proposal During Week of Protest

[Submitted by Susan Redlich. If you are reading this and wondering about actions in the area, check out the Fossil Fuel Bake Sale in Dewy at noon, the Natural Gas Guerrilla Theater in Harvard Square and other actions that will be held all over the area today.]

Despite the big turnout at the demonstration and the week-long citizens’ walk through towns along the pipeline, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers issued no statement or response to the opponents of Trailbreaker (the name for the project that would reverse flow in the existing Portland to Montreal oil pipeline in order to transmit crude tar sands oil to the Atlantic coast for export).  What’s next for grassroots organizers against tar sands in the northeast?  Answer: The Tar Sands Free Town Initiative. (See what all towns can do at end of blog)

“There is power in our voices, there is power in the land, we say ‘yes’ to the earth, and ‘no’ to tar sands.”  (Sung by hundreds of demonstrators at Battery Park overlooking Lake Champlain on Sunday, before they walked silently down the street and enacted a human oil spill in front of the hotel where the New England Governors Conference was taking place.)

An estimated 500 people answered the call by Tar Sands Free Northeast

An estimated 500 people answered the call by Tar Sands Free Northeast to make the Governors and Premiers feel the heat of grassroots opposition to bringing tar sands oil through New England.  The peaceful march held in Burlington, Vermont, on Sunday, July 29, included 5 of us representing 350MA.org.  I had been following the story of the tar sands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River ever since I met people from Kalamazoo, Michigan that came to the Anti-Keystone XL Pipeline protest in November in Washington, D.C.. These folks had first hand experience with the disastrous impact of an existing pipeline that carried tar sands oil through their community. On July 25, 2010, an Enbridge company tar sands pipeline near Marshall, Michigan, burst open, spewing more than one million gallons of diluted bitumen from a large gash in a black pipe.

According to Tar Sands Free Northeast, “Tar sands companies, including fossil-fuel giant Enbridge

Photo of Devyn of 350MA.org in front of City Hall.

(a parent company of Gaz Metro, Green Mountain Power’s owner), have clearly stated their interest in accessing eastern markets for tar sands exports. The complete reversal of Line 9 and the Portland-Montreal pipelines would link tar sands oil production centers to international shipping facilities in Maine.”

Tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada, as well as refining of the bitumen at facilities elsewhere, and the eventual carbon combustion will accelerate climate change which endangers us all, no matter what state we are from.

What are the chances the oil will pass through Vermont? The Burlington Free Press quoted Governor Shumlin of Vermont as saying: “I can’t say anything for sure, because I don’t run Enbridge. They have told me, and they’ve told Premier Charest, and they’ve told everybody that I know from other states that they are not considering any longer using that pipeline for tar sands oil. That’s great news for Vermont.”

But the silence of the Governors Conference on the subject I think speaks for itself, in other words, the proposal is being discussed in back rooms.

The demonstration gave visibility to many groups that see the tie-in between stopping tar sands oil transport and stopping the corporate influence over politicians and resources.  The range of voices and interests can be seen in the video accompanying the article by Elliot deBruyn of the Burlington Free Press.

Photo of Jackson and Alice from 350MA.org with map of a gas pipeline proposed to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.What’s next for grassroots organizers against tar sands in the northeast?  The Tar Sands Free Town Initiative. The following information is taken from the TarSandsFreeNE website.

What’s next for grassroots organizers against tar sands in the northeast?  The Tar Sands Free Town Initiative. The following information is taken from the TarSandsFreeNE website.

“The Initiative connects people in local communities across the United States and parts of Canada who are fighting the expansion of tar sands in their local community. Building on model resolutions already adopted in Bellingham, Washington, individual municipalities can pass resolutions that keep fuel from tar sands refineries out of their towns.

Although tar sands oil itself hasn’t yet entered New England, fuel from refineries using tar sands is being distributed across New England, so municipalities must take action to avoid buying this fuel that supports the tar sands.  Also, pipeline companies appear to be taking steps to bring tar sands directly to the eastern seaboard.  Municipal resolutions can take a stand against these tar sands plans as well.

Setting up a network of towns, organizations, and businesses who oppose fuel from tar sands refineries and new infrastructure for transporting tar sands will raise public awareness about the dangers of tar sands, hold oil companies and politicians to account, and demonstrate to governments that the public rejects this extreme form of energy that is much more dangerous and polluting than conventional oil.”

by Susan Redlich

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