Last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin wrote to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, establishing his firm opposition to the potential piping of tar sands oil through the Portland-Montreal Pipeline, which passes through the northeast corner of Vermont.
Shumlin asked Kerry to require a new presidential permit and a federal Environmental Impact Statement — in the event the Portland Pipe Line Corp. sought to reverse the flow of its line to pump tar sands oil from Montreal to Portland.
The secretary of state has authority over presidential permits for cross-border pipelines that pump liquids, and an Environmental Impact Statement is the result of a survey for a project “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”
Portland Pipe Line presently has no contracts to pump tar sands oil, but its CEO has repeatedly said that the company is very interested in the proposition.
Shumlin has said in the past he does not support the flow of tar sands oil through Vermont, and now he is actively advocating against this potential project.
“My opposition to the transport of tar sands oil through the reversed PMPL is based upon the impacts of such a project in Vermont and concerns for Vermont’s economy, environment, and natural resources in the event of a spill,” Shumlin wrote. “I am also worried about the potential climate change impacts associated with the extraction and burning of tar sands from western Canada.”
In the letter, Shumlin also asserted the state’s land-use authority over the pipeline. In a jurisdictional opinion, Act 250 land-use coordinator Kirsten Sultan wrote that if Portland Pipe Line wants to pump oil from Alberta’s tar sands region through Vermont, the company would need an Act 250 permit. The company has appealed, arguing that the decision to apply the state’s governing land-use law to this prospective project was based on “misleading” information.
Although the appeal process is in its nascent stages, Shumlin wrote that he is adamant Vermont have environmental regulatory power over the project.
“While the company challenges Vermont’s law, I believe state oversight regarding environmental and other impacts within our borders is critical, and I am committed to the State of Vermont having oversight regarding such a project within our borders,” he wrote.