March 5, 2013

Some Vt. towns oppose shipment of tar sands oil

The Associated Press

CRAFTSBURY, Vt. — More than two dozen Vermont communities said "no" Tuesday to any possibility of shipping tar sands oil by pipeline through the state, as concerns grow among environmentalists about potential spills.

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Citizens listen to debate at town meeting on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in Craftsbury, Vt. Vermonters are heading to their town halls and school gymnasiums for Town Meeting to vote on town and school budget. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

At least 28 communities among those that took up the nonbinding Town Meeting Day resolution approved the measure, according to the group 350 Vermont, which is concerned about climate change and is campaigning for the resolution. The group's final tally was not immediately available Tuesday night.

Currently, Portland Pipe Line Corp. ships crude oil through pipeline between Maine and Montreal. But corporation CEO Larry Wilson has said the company has no active plans to reverse the flow and ship tar sands oil across northern New England, as many fear.

Environmentalists say tar sands oil poses a greater threat of a pipeline spill because it is thicker and more corrosive.

Most of the communities that voted on the resolution Tuesday were scattered around Vermont ranging from Burlington to Bennington. The pipeline runs through northern Vermont, through the Northeast Kingdom towns of Burke, Jay, Irasburg, Newport, Troy, Barton, Sutton, Victory, Lunenburg and Guildhall.

Craftsbury, which is in the Northeast Kingdom, voted for the resolution against any tar sands oil pipeline.

"That's why we brought it here to Craftsbury where we are directly affected by the potential of a catastrophe," Peggy Sapphire said during the town meeting.

The voice vote came at the end of the meeting after residents approved a $3.5 million school budget, spending up to $130,000 to buy a new fire truck, selling a 1976 tanker to help offset the cost, and lunching on macaroni and cheese.

Anne Hanson, who helped get the tar sands oil resolution on the agenda, said she was pleased to learn at the meeting that the school's new wood pellet burner was saving energy and that legislators were working on other energy efficiency measures.

"The opportunity that we have here today is to not only, I believe, protect local resources but also to make a statement from our region and Vermont that we are looking for a very different energy future," she said.

To make sure the discussion was balanced, the moderator called for critics of the resolution to speak as well.

Joe Young balked at the proposal, particularly a provision that the town require that fuel vendors doing business in Craftsbury provide complete lists of the refinery sources for all fuel. He suggested that meeting that requirement would be too time consuming.

Town officials also received a letter from a Canadian consulate general on the tar sands oil issue but voters rejected a motion to read the letter at the meeting.

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