Exxon’s Stealth Moves to Run Tar Sands into New England

We’ve written before about Big Oil’s new playbook on tar sands: using stealth tactics to make it harder for the public to figure out what dangerous projects they have in mind and trying to pull one over on the public. Bearing locally-based labels like “Portland Pipe Line Corporation” and “Montreal Pipe Line Limited,” the proposed Trailbreaker tar sands pipeline is actually owned by ExxonMobil, via its Canadian Subsidiary Imperial Oil, with tar sands giant Suncor Energy having a minority stake in the company.

Imperial and Suncor are among the largest developers of Canadian tar sands oil. This convoluted corporate maze of oil behemoths is in bed with Enbridge, the company behind the Kalamazoo River oil spill, the most costly onshore spill in U.S. history. Now, it apparently wants to pump tar sands oil from Alberta through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to the port of Portland for overseas markets. Tar sands oil is a heavy, corrosive, diluted bitumen and is known as one of the dirtiest, most-polluting, hardest-to-clean-up fuels on the planet. The tar sands business is booming in Canada and the corporate hawks are positioning to pounce on the profits they see in this dirty product by using New England communities as conduits to export markets.

It’s no wonder ExxonMobil doesn’t want to come clean. The company’s not clean. It was ExxonMobil that caused the infamous 1989 Valdez spill, a disaster that spewed 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s pristine waters. In July 2011, the company’s Silvertip Pipeline dumped 42,000 gallons of oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River.

Kalamazoo River Enbridge Oil Spill
840,000 of tar sands crude spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River last year

And the plot thickens. Exxon’s apparent partner in the Trailbreaker tar sands plot is Enbridge, the company that owns the line from Ontario to Montreal that could connect to the line to Portland. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline rupture poured a million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River, an incident which an independent review found was due to extreme negligence.

The New England Trailbreaker project would reverse the flow of the current Portland-Montreal Pipe Line (PMPL) going from Portland, Maine, to Quebec. Under the Trailbreaker scheme, tar sands would flow across Canada and through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine through this pipeline. And this oil flowing to Portland would not help the people of those states even if they wanted it because the most likely would be exported or sent to refineries by ship. The people of New England would be left with all the harm – ruptures and pumping station breakdowns that could threaten thousands of clear lakes and rivers and unspoiled forests.

The people of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have a long history of valuing their forests, rivers and lakes. They deserve straight talk and full disclosure, not backroom deals shrouded in a complicated a corporate structure that hides the true identity and motives of the real players who see these states as just a “pass-through” to the coast and a pass-through to easy profits.

“This pipeline presents a double whammy.  ExxonMobil’s apparent partner in this tar sands pipeline scheme is Enbridge, which has disastrous safety record and is responsible for the devastating Kalamazoo River tar sands spill in 2010,” said Jim Murphy, Vermont-based Senior Counsel with National Wildlife Federation. “Enbridge spilled a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River, the most expensive domestic pipeline spill in history that will mar the river for years, maybe decades. Independent review found that extreme negligence led to the spill. Vermont doesn’t need this type of disaster.”

These oil giants have a dirty track record. Let’s not let them add to that record.

Get the Facts: Final Corporate Fact Sheet