Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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People march down Commercial Street in Portland on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 to protest what they say is a proposal to send tar sands oil from Canada through a pipeline to Portland harbor.
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
The State Department requires a "Presidential Permit" as well as an environmental impact assessment for new pipelines that cross the international border. The department also has the discretion to impose those review requirements on changes to existing pipelines, however.
In 2008, the State Department declined to review Portland Pipe Line's original request, a decision that the 18 members of Congress described as "extremely troubling" in their Feb. 26 letter. They urged Kerry -- a longtime Democratic senator from Massachusetts -- to get involved this time.
"We believe that a changeover to carrying tar sands is a significant alteration in function and environment risk for existing pipelines, and that the State Department should require a new permit and environmental review for these changes to occur," the letter reads. "Tar sands is a greater hazard to the communities through which it is shipped than conventional oil, as illustrated by the 2010 Kalamazoo River tar sands oil spill in Michigan -- the most expensive pipeline spill in U.S. history."
Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director at NRCM, applauded the letter because at present everyone is unclear about how the process will unfold.
"Now is the time," Voorhees said. "The State Department needs to look into this and make that determination."
Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, did not sign onto the letter, but both indicated that they support a review process. King reiterated his concerns about the pipeline proposal Wednesday.
"I am skeptical of the idea," King said in a statement. "It's a different substance going in a different direction at a different pressure and temperature than we have traditionally pumped through that pipeline for the last 60 years. I would support an effort to require oil companies to undergo a full and appropriate level of review if they wish to reverse the flow."
Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley noted that there is no official proposal to pipe tar sands oil through Maine.
"Should anyone actually seek approval, Senator Collins would expect that an appropriate environmental impact review be completed," Kelley said.
Kevin Miller can be reached at 317-6256 or at:
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