Tar Sands Battle Takes Distinct Turns in Vermont, Montana

Environmental victory in Burlington but fossil fuel fail in Montana

As the battle over transporting tar sands out of Alberta continues, two distinct paths emerged on Monday, one chosen by Burlington, Vermont and the other by Montana, and show how decisions made at the local level can have serious impacts for ongoing battles over fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

Acknowledging that the pipeline that goes from Montreal to Portland, Maine and passes through Vermont is being eyed for the transportation of tar sands crude, the message out of a Burlington City Council vote on Monday was a resounding 'no' to tar sands. The Burlington Free Press reports:

Burlington City Council on Monday night voted its disapproval over the transport of tar sands oil, which it termed as an unacceptable risk to "public health and safety, property values and our natural resources."

Climate group 350 Vermont welcomed the decision, Tweeting:

To make sure the message is loud and clear to those involved in the prospective pipeline, the resolution also requires that

the Council transmit a copy of the resolution to the governor of Vermont, the Vermont Congressional delegation, the Canadian Prime Minister, and the CEOs of companies associated with the pipeline: Portland Pipe Line Corporation, Montreal Pipe Line Limited, Imperial Oil Limited, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Enbridge, Inc., BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

While campaigners fighting for a tar sands-free New England celebrated the victory in Burlington, a decision in Montana offered nothing to cheer about.

KPAX Missoula reports:

On Monday, the state's top lawmakers green-lighted the Keystone XL pipeline route in Montana allowing the line to cross two of Montana's largest rivers.

The Keystone XL is a proposed oil pipeline which would span 1,200 miles from Alberta, Canada, through Montana to Nebraska.

The State Land Board, made up of Montana's top five elected officials, approved nearly 40 easements running through seven Montana counties, giving TransCanada permission to put the pipeline on state land.

The Great Falls Tribune adds that the state board decision came despite objections from environmental groups, including Jim Jensen of the Montana Environmental Information Center, who argued that the pipeline would jeopardize the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

"You are not dealing with your normal everyday crude oil in this pipeline," added Jensen, referring to the thick, heavy crude extracted in the so-called oil sands of Alberta.

The Land Board also doesn't have all of the information available about the environmental impacts of tar sands oil including the level of greenhouse gas emissions they produce, Jensen said.

That the tar sands crude that would flow through these pipelines is different from "your normal everyday crude oil" was also the argument of Texas property owner Michael Bishop, who tried to stop TransCanada from laying the Keystone XL on his property.

Adding to environmental concerns over the Keystone XL, InsideClimate News reported Monday that the pipeline will not use the most advanced spill technology; its leak detection system would only go off was leaking 294,000 gallons of the tar sands crude per day. In addition, two other safety measures, involving a concrete cap and daily patrols, will be absent.

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