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Public Statements

North American Energy Infrastructure Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WELCH. Mr. Chairman, I rise to speak in favor of the Welch-Pingree-Michaud-Kuster-Shay-Porter amendment, and I want to thank my colleagues from northern New England for cosponsoring this amendment with me.

H.R. 3301, as we have been hearing, exempts literally all modifications of cross-border pipelines from Federal approval and environmental review without any regard to the impacts on public health, safety, and the environment. My view: that is a terrible idea.

Some pipeline modifications, in fact, are truly minor and are unlikely to affect the environment or put public safety at risk. For example, if the pipeline is sold to a new owner, there is no need for a Federal review. So there is a place here for no review.

But many modifications could have just as much impact as a brand new pipeline, and there is no justification to exempt from consideration those issues that would be reviewed if it were a new pipeline.

The Portland Montreal Pipe Line reversal is an exact example of a pipeline modification that could have very significant impacts. Currently that pipeline carries light sweet crude from the U.S. to Canada, but a proposal in the works is to reverse that pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada, through New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, to ports of Casco Bay, where it would be loaded on the ships for export. That has raised a lot of concerns in these States.

Any spill of tar sands crude is a very big deal, far worse than any other type of oil spill. Vermonters are concerned about reversing of the pipeline to transport those tar sands, that it would accelerate the development of the tar sands oil, which is the dirtiest and most carbon intensive in the universe.

Forty-two towns and municipalities in the State of Vermont have passed resolutions opposing this project. Concerned citizens deserve to have their voices heard. Under H.R. 3301, the pipeline owners could completely skip the process. I oppose this.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WELCH. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chair, two things. I want to speak to the leader of our Energy and Commerce Committee, but also to the proponent of this bill, Mr. Green.

We can have too much regulation or we can have too little regulation, and they both have problems. Mr. Green talks about the hassle his company is having getting a name change. That is ridiculous. That company should be able to change its name and not have to go through the hassle of a permit. Then when the agency holds back and doesn't even give them an answer for 3 years, we have a problem, and I agree with that. Under my amendment, those issues like a name change would not be at all subject to the permitting process.

On the other hand, we in Vermont are concerned about a reversal of flow and having tar sands go through. It is a really big deal. Forty-two towns in my State passed resolutions saying that they wanted to have a say in this. It is known that spills happen, and tar sands bills are a much bigger deal than other kinds.

What we have in the legislation is not working together to find what is the balance or to try to move us towards a balance so there are not unnecessary burdens for a name change and simple things, but, on the other hand, we don't abolish the review process altogether.

This legislation doesn't seek that balance. What this legislation does is, in effect, abolish the review process, and that is a problem, so our going from too much review on a name change to no review on tar sands coming through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Our legislation, I think, is the only thing that is being considered that, in fact, offers a balance. If it is a name change, a minor deal, no permit required. If it is significant, then, yes, you are going to have to go through the review.

I want to thank the chairman and the Speaker and the body for its time.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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