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Tar Sands in New England?
Last week there was a meeting in the town of Randolph, New Hampshire to talk about tar sands. A Randolph conservation commissioner who had heard about the tar sands/Trailbreaker issue from NH Audubon (an NWF affiliate) had set the meeting up, inviting all the conservation commissioners and selectmen from the 5 towns that the pipeline runs through in NH. There were lots of citizens there as well, including a group from Maine who came across the border.
There were about 65 people in the room (impressive given that many of these towns have a population under 500), and presentations were given by the spill response head from the NH Department of Environmental Services, Shelley Kath from Natural Resources Defense Council , Larry Wilson (the head of the Portland to Montreal Pipeline Company), and John Quinn from the American Petroleum Institute. The presentations connected this pipeline to the international picture, and there was a lot of concern in the room about the idea of the project.
The pipeline company executive brought 2 employees as well as a state lobbyist with him, and although he denied having plans to run tar sands in the existing pipe he said he would be thrilled to if he was given the opportunity, as the pipeline is currently empty.
After the presentations, the audience was free to ask questions, and it was clear from the start that the level of concern was high. I personally was surprised by how many retired scientists came, and they all asked very sophisticated questions. There were a lot of tough issues and although the pipeline company head kept saying there were no plans to run tar sands people made it clear that they were very unhappy about the idea of it in their communities.
Several people asked about climate and some were very pointed, asking the API person if he believed in climate change and if he felt it was human-caused. He made it clear that the American Petroleum Institute does not see climate change as their problem. Folks pointed out the local impacts a tar sands spill would have as well as the regional, national, and global effects of climate change. They reminded the oil executives that the Kalamazoo River in Michigan is still being cleaned up, more than 2 years later!
We had a great group there from our Tar Sands Free NH coalition, with several members of the Trout Unlimited Chapter (two of whom asked really good questions), some NH Audubon folks, some Appalachian Mountain Club folks, and Eric Orff, who is a retired state wildlife biologist who used to tag bears in that area back when he worked for the state.
All in all a good meeting and a clear indication from the communities of Coos County NH that they have lots of concerns about any project to run tar sands through their back yards.