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Opposition to tar sands oil grows in North Country

Special to the Union Leader

April 23. 2013 11:59PM

RANDOLPH - Days after spearheading a Stop the Toxic Tar Sands event in Randolph, Corry Hughes of Jefferson was feeling optimistic.

Not only did she think the speakers at the potluck picnic, held Saturday at the Durand Lake Recreational Area, made a persuasive case for not allowing the transportation of diluted bitumen oil through the local pipeline, but she had just received Gov. Maggie Hassan's statement on the matter.

Hassan called for the State Department to do a thorough environmental and permitting process before allowing the flow of tar sands oil in the pipelines owned by the Portland Pipe Line Corporation. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Hassan asked him to protect the state's environment and economy.

"The state of New Hampshire has limited authority over pipelines that cross state borders and therefore relies heavily on federal review and regulation. It also receives little or no benefit from their presence in the state. However, should anything go wrong with such a pipeline - a leak or worse - New Hampshire's taxpayers bear the responsibility and cost of cleanup," Hassan wrote.

"Moreover, the residents of the five towns through which the decades-old pipeline crosses - Lancaster, Jefferson, Randolph, Gorham and Shelburne - are likely to suffer the most direct impact of any spill or leak. It is also likely that our rivers and streams would bear the brunt of the environmental impact of a release, threatening the vital tourism industry and natural resources on which the entire state relies."

"I'm thrilled," Hughes said. "The message is getting out."

She got involved in the effort, which includes environmental activists and residents of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, after researching tar sands. "The more I read, the more I said, this is not a good idea."

The Portland Pipe Line Corporation has said it has no immediate plans to transport Western Canadian crude.

"While we do not have an active project to reverse the flow in either of our pipelines, if there is a demand for doing so in the future, we will consider it," the company said in a statement late last year.

"However, please be assured that if we ever embark on a major project to change the current use or flow direction of our pipeline system, we will engage in open discussions with our pipeline neighbors, the public and the appropriate regulatory bodies to explain our plans and, where required, to obtain necessary approvals well in advance."

The 236-mile pipeline runs through the three northern New England states and the province of Quebec.

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