Pipeline protests cross borders to save local communities

• January 25, 2013
An Enbridge pipeline In Sarnia, Ontario -- beside the St. Clair river, and the Aamjiwnaang native reserve

A sign on Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline in Sarnia, Creative Commons: Toban Black, 2010

A large US-Canada cross border protest began this week against yet another risky proposal to pump tar sands oil across ecosystems and communities.  Enbridge, the same company under attack by environmentalists for the Northern Gateway projects to the Pacific, is also working with Exxon to expand another pipeline east to Portland, Maine on the Atlantic coast.

Canadians and Americans are standing in solidarity against tar sands by participating in coordinated rallies in impacted areas across Quebec, Ontario, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire in protests that will culminate Saturday, January 26th.

“Hundreds of people will descend on Portland Saturday to make a point: We cannot afford the risk of tar sands oil oozing across the Northeast in Exxon’s pipeline and we will be calling on the State Department to demand an environmental review of this risky proposal. There is too much at stake,” said Lisa Pohlmann of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the organizations coordinating protests.

The full list of actions includes picket lines and marches in front of numerous Exxon Mobil Stations, flash mobs in downtown centers, human oil spills, drop in visits to local offices of members of Congress, and a demonstration on the Connecticut River, which would be endangered by the pipeline.  The protests are calling on the National Energy Board of Canada and the US State Department to reject permits for this project within their respective jurisdictions.

Part of the transport route includes an already existing pipeline, known as Line 9B, which runs from Sarnia, Ontario into Quebec.  Extending this pipeline to port on the Atlantic would require cutting a new path through Maine and other northeastern US states.

”Enbridge’s plan to reverse its Line 9 pipeline opens the door to piping the toxic tar sands through Ontario and Quebec for export. Enbridge has previously denied any intention of bring tar sands oil east. However, the regulatory documents they filed today clearly opens the door to more dangerous tar sands oil,” said Dr. Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada when news of the expansion was first made public in November of 2012.

Tar sands oil is a reserve of crude oil trapped within sand that can be separated out through an resource- and energy-intensive extraction and refinement process.  The full process of preparing tar sands oil for market is estimated to release up to three times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional crude oil. The acidic, abrasive, and viscous nature of tar sands oil also makes it significantly more likely to erode the pipes in which it is transported, making these pipeline projects at serious risk of spills.

Learn more about the protests>>

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About the Author

Emily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.

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