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The Exxon and Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline

Download NWF's new report: Tar Sands at our Doorstep: The Threat to the Lake Champlain Region's Waters, Wildlife and Climate (pdf)

Two of the world's biggest oil companies are trying to transport toxic tar sands oil through New England. This dangerous pipeline project (dubbed the "Exxon/Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline") would put people and wildlife at risk from oil spills, polluted water and runaway climate change impacts.

What is the Exxon/Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Project?

Trailbreaker Map- Route of the Portland-Maine Pipeline

The Exxon/Enbridge tar sands pipeline project seeks to reverse the flow of two existing pipelines in order to ship crude oil from Alberta's tar sands region to the Maine coast. The first pipeline, Line 9, runs from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal.  The second pipeline, called the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line (PMPL), runs from Montreal through Vermont and New Hampshire all the way to Portland, Maine.

Both of those pipelines currently send oil west, but Enbridge has asked the National Energy Board in Canada to allow for a partial reversal of Line 9 so that it can pump oil eastward, instead. If this reversal is approved, Big Oil will also seek to reverse the flow of the connecting pipeline, PMPL, to transport tar sands east. This project could eventually transport over 300,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil across New England.

How Could the Exxon/Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Impact People and Wildlife?

Moose and her calf

Tar sands oil is more corrosive than conventional crude and is particularly dangerous for older pipelines like the Portland-Montreal pipeline, which was constructed in 1950. Tar sands pipelines have been plagued by catastrophic spills, and clean-up has proved difficult. This project runs near or over some of New England’s most beautiful waterways, including:

  • Sebago Lake (source of drinking water for Portland, ME)
  • The Androscoggin River
  • Victory Bog
  • The Connecticut River
  • Casco bay 

Extreme Energy Makes Extreme Weather

Tar sands has an estimated 3-5 times the climate pollution of conventional crude oil. Making it easier to transport this oil from source in Western Canada will increase its use in the United States and foreign markets, increasing the risk to the northeast from catastrophic storms and other climate changes. New England is already feeling the effects of a changing climate--mild winters have resulted in increased tick populations that are hurting moose populations, higher water temperatures in the summer have been killing brook trout, and more air quality warnings for hot days forcing the young, the old and the sick to stay inside.

Projects like the Exxon/Enbridge tar sands pipeline would also contribute to the expansion of habitat-destroying tar sands operations in Alberta, Canada. Escalating tar sands development in Canada is destroying wildlife habitat at a breakneck pace--pushing species like woodland caribou toward extinction and prompted a failed plan to poison and shoot thousands of wolves in a perverse effort to "protect" the caribou.


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