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Exemplifying Direct Democracy, 28 Vermont Towns Vote Against Tar Sands

Residents express worry not only about local concerns such as spills, but show broader concern related to climate change and pollution created by extraction of "world's dirtiest fuel"

Jon Queally, staff writer

Residents in over two dozen towns across the state of Vermont expressed their oppositon to tar sands oil on Tuesday by passing resolutions against a possible plan to allow the "dirty fuel" from running through an existing pipeline that crosses the state.

According to 350 Vermont—a state group affiliated with the international campaigners at, co-founded by Vermont resident Bill McKibben—a total of twenty-eight towns passed resolutions against the project.

Those towns include: Bennington, Burlington,Cabot, Calais, Charlotte, Chittenden, Cornwall, Craftsbury, East Montpelier, Fayston, Grand Isle, Hinesburg, Marshfield, Middlebury, Middlesex, Montgomery, Montpelier, Moretown, Plainfield, Putney, Randolph, Ripton, Starksboro, Waitsfield, Walden, Warren, Woodbury and Worcester.

Vermont—where citizens still celebrate the New England tradition of direct democracy through annual town hall meetings at which many items can be brought forth for community consideration—is just one of the states fighting a regional battle against a plan to bring tar sands—often cited as the 'world's dirtiest fuel'—from Montreal, Canada to the coast of Maine for export.

Town resolutions have recently been passing in nearby Maine as well, where the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line begins at a pumping station on the shores of Casco Bay.

As the Associated Press explains:

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.


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

But, as the Burlington Free Press reports:

... concerns over tar-sand oil go far beyond its impacts on New England. Photographs of Alberta tar-sands operations show strip-mine-like work covering of vast tracts of wilderness.

Critics of the pipeline add that the quick entrance of tar-sand oil into global markets could accelerate global climate change, through the associated release of more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.

In the town of Craftsbury, which sits in the part of the state known as the Northeast Kingdom where the pipeline traverses, resident Peggy Sapphire was clear about why she supported the resolution opposing the pipeline.

"The opportunity that we have here," she told the AP ahead of the vote,"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."


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