Meeting of Governors and Premiers a Big Opportunity for Northeast Wildlife

Moose and young in Berlin, New Hampshire. Photo Credit: Flickr user Dave Spier
Moose and young in Berlin, New Hampshire. Moose rely on New England’s streams and rivers for water and habitat. Flickr photo by Dave Spier.
This week, the governors of New England states are meeting with leaders of Canada’s Eastern provinces in the mountains of New Hampshire, at the annual New England Governors and Eastern Premiers Conference.

As they make plans and consider policies for the coming years, now is a good time for our leaders to discuss the incredible opportunity to build on progress made throughout the region, keep dirty fuels out and build a clean energy future..

It’s meaningful that the conference, which is being held in Bretton Woods this year, is located only a few towns from the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line’s path through New Hampshire, which transports oil from South Portland, Maine, to Montreal. The pipeline—and its potential use for transporting climate disrupting tar sands oil in the opposite direction for export—is a symbol of the crossroads at which the United States and Canada currently stand. Will we continue to lock ourselves into fossil fuel infrastructure for 50, 70, maybe even 100 more years? Or will we say “No” to the dirtiest fuels and continue the move toward clean energy? Our governors and regional premiers have already shown leadership on this question, and they can use this conference to take the next step.

Recognizing the tar sands threat to the Northeast

Tar sands oil has the potential to pollute New England and Canada’s shared water and air, and to negate the hard work our leaders have done to make the Northeast a leader on addressing climate change. Not only does new infrastructure pose the threat of spills from pipelines, tankers and trains, the fact is that without action to keep tar sands out of our gas tanks, tar sands-derived fuels could make up as much as 18% of our regional fuel supply by 2020 (enough to negate the region’s carbon emissions reductions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative).

The invasion of tar sands oil poses a huge threat to wildlife and habitat throughout the Northeast. Moose, trout, ducks, and so many other species rely on the clean water of our rivers and streams for drinking water and habitat – scores of which would face the threat of pollution under a tar sands spill. Climate change is already having a devastating impact on New Hampshire’s moose population. And at the source, the tar sands industry is decimating pristine forest in Alberta that our most loved migratory birds need for nesting.

Keeping Tar Sands Out of Our Region

There are several steps our leaders can take together to keep New England and Eastern Canada tar sands free:

Tar sands transport threatens common loons here in New England, and tar sands extraction is decimating their nesting habitat in Alberta, Canada. Photo credit: Flickr user Ian Matchett.
Tar sands transport threatens common loons here in New England, and tar sands extraction is decimating their nesting habitat in Alberta, Canada. Flickr photo by Ian Matchett.
Recognize the threat posed to the region by infrastructure proposals that would bring tar sands across our rivers, streams, farms and towns, and reject such proposals. This includes standing in the way of the Energy East pipeline, which would carry up to 1.1 million barrels of tar sands crude per day through Quebec to New Brunswick; and blocking the use of the Portland-Montreal pipeline for tar sands transport. It also means ensuring that any current movement of oil—by pipeline or rail—is only done in the safest possible manner, which is currently not the case. Regional leaders should be pushing Washington to improve safety regulations for oil transport.

Take steps to keep high-carbon fuels out of the region’s fuel mix, so we know we aren’t putting tar sands-derived fuel in our gas tanks even while we work to stop it from coming through our pipelines. This piece is already in motion—in 2009, 11 governors stated their commitments to keeping tar sands out of our tanks, and this year both Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire have indicated a willingness to act. Now it’s time to expand this fight to bigger states in the region, especially Massachusetts, whose choices have enormous power to influence the direction of New England’s fuel mix.

Build on efforts in New Hampshire to make sure the state is prepared to respond in case of a spill from existing infrastructure, by making sure communities have funding and tools needed to clean up and protect themselves.

Momentum has been building to keep tar sands out of New England, from a Jurisdictional Opinion in 2013 stating that any proposal to use the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line would be subject to Act 250 review in Vermont, to massive public engagement leading to South Portland taking steps to establish an ordinance that would protect the city from tar sands. However, these local fights must be considered in tandem with fights across the country, such as the battle to stop the controversial Keystone XL pipeline; taken together, they highlight the need for a federal policy that makes President Obama’s climate test the norm, and ensures that major infrastructure choices are only made if they are consistent with efforts to cut carbon pollution.

At the same time, our leaders can act on the enormous opportunity presented by Atlantic offshore wind and other renewable energy sources, and move us to a future that runs on clean energy.

Take Action for Wildlife

Take ActionHelp keep moose in the Northeast safe from tar sands. Tell your governor to say “No” to tar sands.