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Protect New England from the threat of Tar Sands Oil

The simple truth is that people are addicted to oil. Unfortunately as we continue to burn it, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere continues to rise.  Scientific evidence shows that the world is now suffering the disastrous impacts of climate change caused by elevated levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.  As oil supplies dwindle there is a push to uncover new resources by using dirty tar sands mining practices as in the case of the tar sands of central Canada.  The 240 gigatons of carbon stored in the tar sands is equivalent to adding at least 4 million new cars to the road. Current plans will pipe this dirty oil west, south, and east to coastal waters.  Areas around these pipelines will be put at risk of serious environmental disasters, while the entire globe will be increasingly threatened by climate change.

Oil companies plan to pump tar sands oil through some of the most pristine areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Linking tar sands oil production centers in central Canada to international shipping facilities in Maine will boost the industry’s profits, while ignoring the potential risks imposed upon the people and environment of New England.  Unlike the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway pipeline, the proposed project does not require new pipeline construction.  The plan is to simply reverse the flow of two existing pipeline systems: the 40-year-old Enbridge Line 9 and the 62-year-old Portland-Montreal Pipe Line.

The areas through which these lines travel include some of the most spectacular ecological resources in the region.  The tar sands that will be flowing through this line are not like conventional oil.  Tar sands diluted bitumen is mixed with natural gas liquids and other volatile petroleum products and it is transported at high temperatures and high pressure.  This combination can weaken pipelines and increase the risk of spills.

Important Areas:

  • Saint Lawrence River – Canada’s most important river provides drinking water to 50% of Quebec.
  • Lake Memphremagog – 27-mile long glacial lake, provides water in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Victory State Forest – A 15,000-acre state complex in Vermont’s pristine “Northeast Kingdom” that is home to 130 bird species.
  • Connecticut River – One of New England’s most important watersheds.
  • Missisquoi River – A major tributary to Lake Champlain.  A 767,000-acre watershed, with a 6,700 National Wildlife Refuge at its mouth.
  • Coos County – known as the “North Country,” this is the least developed area in New Hampshire.
  • Androscoggin River – The pipeline will cross this important river twice and run alongside it for 13 miles.  Recent rehabilitation efforts are once again threatened.
  • Crooked River – A favorite area for outdoor enthusiasts, this river is also the primary spawning and nursery ground for Sebago Lake’s landlocked Atlantic salmon.
  • Sebago Lake – Covering 30,000 acres, this area includes Maine’s busiest state campground and provide clean drinking water to Portland.
  • Gulf of Maine – One of the ten most productive marine ecosystems in the world and essential to Maine’s economy.

There is a history of pipeline spills, including an incident near Marshall, Michigan in 2010.  More than 1 million gallons of diluted bitumen spilled and drained into the Talmadge Creek, eventually spreading down a 30-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.  The results included health effects among the local population and devastating effects on the ecosystem.  Enbridge, the owner of Line 9, has had 804 spills between 1999 and 2010, which resulted in 6.8 million gallons of hydrocarbons.

The proposed tar sands pipeline threatens both humans and the natural environment.

An effort between 350Vermont, the Sierra Club,, the National Wildlife Federation and other eco-activist organizations are attempting to end this proposed tar sands oil pipeline.

The main objectives of this movement are:

  • Take action and call on our governments to thoroughly review all pipelines that might carry tar sands,
  • Call on President Obama to require a Presidential Permit for the proposed New England pipeline, necessitating a full environmental impact review.
  • Conduct long-range clean energy plans before committing to infrastructure that will increase oil consumption.
  • Embrace policies that will reduce oil demand.

Successes to date:

  • Successfully organizing grassroots efforts.
  • 24 Vermont towns with a Tar Sands Free Resolution on the March ballot
  • Nationwide Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign at several universities
  • Filed a request with the Act 250 Commission for a Jurisdictional Opinion on whether any pipeline reversal would require an environmental review
  • Demonstrations in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Québec: no tar sands in the East!

Challenges to completing the project:

  • Lack of public knowledge in the areas surrounding the tar sands pipeline
  • Building political support of this opposition movement
  • Creating long-range energy plans that will provide alternatives to tar sands oil
  • Embracing new policies that promote renewable energy and reduced consumption
  • Fighting the power and financial resources of the oil industry

Call to Action

Get involved in the Tar Sand Northeast Solidarity Actions.  Events will be taking place throughout New England. There is a national rally to stop the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline in Washington, DC on February 17th, 2013.

Please consider donating directly to, joining and supporting the partner organizations doing this vital work:


An independent state chapter of the movement focused on building a volunteer-based grassroots movement to confront climate change issues in Vermont. Campaigns include Rethinking Transportation, Tar Sands Free Northeast, Fossil Fuel Divestment.

A grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.  Online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are lead by volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.

Sierra Club

America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.  Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters urge the president to cement our nation’s position as the global clean energy leader by going all in on sustainable energy, holding polluters accountable, and rejecting the dangerous tar sands pipeline.

National Wildlife Federation

Providing a voice for wildlife, this organization is dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat and inspiring future generations of conservationists.

Contact Emily Tompkins, Development Coordinator at 350Vermont, or the 350Vermont office, 802-444-0350 with any further questions.  

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