The Memphremagog Watershed Association is hosting a panel discussion Tuesday night about what it calls a "tar sands threat to Lake Memphremagog." The discussion has been organized jointly by the Memphremagog Watershed Association and National Wildlife Federation.
"Community members are invited to attend a discussion about an emerging threat to rivers, lakes, and streams in the Northeast Kingdom, including Lake Memphremagog," an event announcement states.
Don Hendrich, of the Memphremagog Watershed Association, will moderate the discussion. Panel members include Annie Mackin, Vermont tar sands program assistant for the National Wildlife Federation, Greg MacDonald of Sierra Club Vermont and David Stember, U.S. national organizer for 350.org.
The panel will explore the concept of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line transporting Canadian tar sands to a port in Maine. The panel will also consider research by University of New Hampshire student Kaity Thompson regarding specific ecosystem services along the pipeline’s route.
The pipeline crosses 10 towns in Vermont, including 15 rivers and streams, and much of the Lake Memphremagog watershed. The event announcement states:
The pipeline comprises three separate pipes built in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, respectively. Changing market conditions – including the rapid pace of expansion of the Canadian tar sands industry and the pressing need for the industry to reach overseas markets with its landlocked product – have prompted concerns that the owners of the pipeline here may revive a proposal to use it for transport of that product.
The announcement maintains transporting tar sand oil poses more of an environmental threat than transporting conventional oil:
Such a plan would pose unique and serious threats to Vermont’s environment, particularly that of the Northeast Kingdom, because this type of crude does not behave the same as conventional oil when it spills. The crude oil mixture not only contains volatile organic compounds that pose a serious threat to air quality if released, but also is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clean up.
The discussion will be held from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Tuesday July 15 at the Hebard State Building, Room 250 – 100 Main Street, Newport.
Last week, the city council in South Portland, Maine approved the first reading of an ordinance that would "prohibit loading crude oil, including tar sands, in bulk onto marine tank vessels and would block construction or expansion of terminals and other facilities for that purpose," according to an article in the Portland Press Herald.
Also tonight, that proposal goes before the South Portland Planning Board, which is scheduled to review and take an advisory vote. A final council vote is scheduled for July 21. If passed, the South Portland ordinance could potentially block any plans to use the pipeline to bring tar sands oil to the port.