You’re Invited: Retirement Party for the Portland-Montreal Pipeline

NWF recently released documents showing the company that owns the Portland-Montreal pipeline estimated its pipes to have a 60-year life span. We did the math: The pipe built in 1950 passed its projected retirement date in 2010. So we’d like to throw the pipeline a retirement party.

After its 60-plus years in the ground (admittedly with a leak or spill here and there, but who’s counting?) the Portland-Montreal pipeline has earned a relaxing retirement, maybe in a cabin in Canada, and we’d like to help make that happen as soon as possible. One thing this pipeline clearly does not need in its advanced age is to be put to work carrying some of the heaviest, most toxic crude known to man.

Flickr user k.mckeown
This cabin in Alberta would be a nice place for the Portland-Montreal Pipeline to retire.

60 years and counting

The pipeline that runs from Portland, Maine, to Montreal, is actually a set of three pipes that run alongside each other. One of them, a 12-inch pipe that was built in 1940, has already been put out to pasture. A 24” pipe was built in 1960, and technically has a few more years to go.

The 18-inch pipe, the one most likely to be reversed to carry tar sands crude from Montreal to Portland, was built in 1950—the year of the first credit card, the first organ transplant, and the first Peanuts cartoon strip. Since then, we have seen advances in science, engineering, and transportation that we could never have imagined, including the development of increasingly extreme types of fossil fuels, along with cleaner energy sources that can keep us off the nastiest stuff.

When man first walked on the moon, the pipe had already been underground in the Northeast Kingdom for two decades. Lots of things have changed over the years, and while we understand how hard it can be to admit it’s time to slow down at the end of a long career, we’re here to help with the transition.

A lot has happened since 1950

As we reminisce about the 60-plus years since the pipes were installed, we might also look back at the environmental milestones during those years. After the ditches were dug and pipes laid across the Northeast Kingdom, it would be more than 20 years before the first Earth Day. The United States had yet to pass the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act, and had barely begun to consider the implications of our actions on the natural environment on which we so completely rely.

But now we know better

The Portland-Montreal pipeline runs through farm fields and forests, and crosses 15 major rivers and streams, including the Missisquoi River, the Barton River, and the Connecticut River. It also cuts right through Victory Bog, one of the most important wildlife habitats in New England – home to moose, birds such as the Bicknell’s thrush, and unique plant life, serving as a destination for cross-country skiers, birders, and many others.

Bicknell's Thrush. Photo by Steve D. Faccio (Vermont Center for Ecostudies)
The pipeline cuts right through Victory Bog, one of the most important wildlife habitats in New England – home to wildlife like the Bicknell’s Thrush. Photo by Steve D. Faccio (Vermont Center for Ecostudies)
Already, 42 towns in our state have voted to oppose transport of tar sands here. Vermonters are sending a message: We understand the importance of our water and land. It’s vital to our tourism industry, our farmers, our wildlife, and the very fabric of life here. It’s no time to consider transporting a substance that could devastate those natural resources through an aging pipeline – it’s time to throw the pipeline a retirement party instead.

Speak up for Wildlife

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