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Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry - Call For Thorough Investigation of Oil Sands Pipeline Proposal

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Calling for protection for New Hampshire's environment and economy, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter (NH-1) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-2) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry this week requesting a thorough investigation before allowing implementation of any proposal to allow existing New Hampshire pipelines to reverse their flow and transport oil sands products.

Portland Pipe Line Corporation (PPLC) currently operates a pipeline system transporting light to medium crude oil northwest from tankers in Portland Harbor, Maine through northern New Hampshire to Montreal, Canada. PPLC has indicated that it may seek to reverse the pipeline's flow direction and change its contents to Canadian oil sands products. The National Academy of Sciences is currently examining whether diluted bitumen, an oil sands-derived product, is more corrosive to conventional pipelines than traditional crude oil, and therefore poses an increased spill risk.

The letter to Secretary Kerry requested an opportunity for New Hampshire stakeholders to comment on the implementation of any such proposal and asked for clarification on whether a contents change to oil sands-derived products would require a Presidential permit. Pursuant to Executive Order, the Secretary of State has the authority to issue Presidential permits for the construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of certain facilities, including pipelines, at the borders of the United States.

"The past five years have yielded new scientific and experiential data pertaining to the transport of oil sands products," the letter wrote. "We request that you provide clarification on whether a Portland-Montreal pipeline flow reversal will require a Presidential Permit process should plans for flow reversal be proposed and, if not, the mechanism for soliciting public comment to ensure a similarly fair, thorough review process resulting in an environmentally responsible decision that protects our New England region and communities."

The full letter is below:

April 23, 2013

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry,

We are hearing increasing concerns from our constituents that the Portland Pipe Line Corporation may re-initiate efforts to change both the direction and contents of a major pipeline that crosses our state. We write to seek clarification on opportunities for New Hampshire stakeholders to comment on the implementation of any such proposal.

Portland Pipe Line Corporation's (PPLC) 63-year old Portland-Montreal pipeline system currently transports light to medium crude oil northwest from tankers in Portland Harbor, Maine through northern New Hampshire to Montreal, Canada. It has come to our attention that PPLC may seek to reverse the pipeline's flow direction and change its contents to Canadian oil sands products in the near future pursuant to the completion of a pipeline route from the prolific Alberta oil sands region to the U.S. East Coast for shipment to refineries or international export.

This would not be the first time that such a change in function has been envisioned for this infrastructure. In 2008, PPLC requested authorization from the State Department for flow reversal and transport of western Canadian oil sands through one of the Portland-Montreal pipelines operating under a 1999 Presidential Permit. The State Department replied that PPLC would not be required to seek either a new or amended Presidential Permit, action that would have triggered a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review process affording multiple stages of public comment. PPLC did not ultimately pursue its 2008 plan.

The past five years have yielded new scientific and experiential data pertaining to the transport of oil sands products. We request that you provide clarification on whether a Portland-Montreal pipeline flow reversal will require a Presidential Permit process should plans for flow reversal be proposed and, if not, the mechanism for soliciting public comment to ensure a similarly fair, thorough review process resulting in an environmentally responsible decision that protects our New England region and communities.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your timely response.


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