Mainers, Others Submit 41,000 Comments Against Tar Sands Pipeline

Pipeline Could Threaten Sebago Lake, Casco Bay

Environment Maine

Portland, Maine—The Canadian National Energy Board today closed public input on the proposed Line 9 Reversal Phase I tar sands pipeline project after receiving more than 41,000 citizen comments in opposition. A coalition of 11 groups, including Environment Maine, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club Maine, ENE (Environment Northeast), and Conservation Law Foundation, submitted the comments, which focus on the environmental and public health dangers presented by the tar sands project and the need for a comprehensive environmental and public safety review. If fully completed, the tar sands pipeline reversal could threaten the Androscoggin River, Sebago Lake, and Casco Bay.

Canada’s National Energy Board is reviewing a proposal by Canadian oil giant Enbridge to reverse the flow direction of a portion of its aging 62-year-old pipeline to move tar sands crude approximately 125 miles across Ontario. The full length of “Line 9” extends from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec.

The groups criticize the project as an effort by the company to build the shelved “Trailbreaker” tar sands pipeline in segments to avoid comprehensive environmental review. In 2008, Enbridge announced its Trailbreaker pipeline proposal to move tar sands crude from mining operations in Alberta through Ontario and Quebec and across New England to Portland, where the crude would be loaded onto tankers for export to refineries on the East Coast or overseas. The company put Trailbreaker on hold in 2009.

As recently as October 2011, pipeline companies were once again discussing the Trailbreaker plan in the press (albeit without using that name.) Enbridge now denies that this aptly named “Phase 1” reversal is part of the larger Trailbreaker project, but is not ruling out reversing the flow of oil along the entire route. A pumping station required to reverse the flow of the pipeline between Montreal and Portland failed to get a permit in March, 2012.

The National Energy Board can order an investigation of the full environmental impact of the larger project, including the safety impacts of a tar sands pipeline to the environment, waterways, and communities, and climate pollution from tar sands.

“The Trailbreaker project would use an old U.S. pipeline built in 1950 that cuts through mile after mile of Maine’s pristine rivers, lakes, and open spaces. The higher temperatures and pressures needed to move tar sands through the pipeline would significantly increase the risk of the pipeline leaking or rupturing. The effects could be devastating to the Androscoggin River, Sebago Lake, and Casco Bay,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.

An Enbridge pipeline carrying tar sands spilled more than 840,000 gallons of sludge into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, causing health problems and widespread damage to the ecosystem. Crews are still struggling to clean up the spill.

“It is highly risky to pipe the world’s dirtiest source of oil across Maine, along Sebago Lake to Portland Harbor,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “A tar sands pipeline would threaten Sebago Lake, which supplies drinking water to more than 15% of Maine people.” 

“Pumping dirty tar sands oil through Maine to Portland Harbor is a dangerously irresponsible proposal,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Director. “A leak on the scale of the Kalamazoo River spill into Maine’s rivers, lakes, or coast would be catastrophic for Maine communities and our tourism and fisheries industries.”

“Importing dirty, high carbon tar sands crude into this region runs directly counter to decades of concerted efforts by Maine and the other New England states to reduce carbon pollution,” said Beth Nagusky, Maine Director for ENE (Environment Northeast). “Policies such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Renewable Portfolio Standards, and Clean Fuels Standard discourage use of high carbon fuels such as tar sands.”

More information on the Trailbreaker pipeline proposal is available in a factsheet linked here. The coalition of U.S. and Canadian public interest and environmental groups leading efforts to stop the Trailbreaker pipeline include:

Conservation Law Foundation

Environmental Defence Canada

Environment Maine

ENE (Environment Northeast)


Friends of the Earth

Natural Resources Council of Maine

Natural Resources Defense Council

National Wildlife Federation

Sierra Club