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NEWS: Canadian consular officials defend the tar sands at public meetings in Maine

The original Trailbreaker proposal is composed of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line and the Enbridge Line 9.

The original Trailbreaker proposal is composed of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line and the Enbridge Line 9.

Environmental groups in the United States have been raising concerns that the Line 9 pipeline reversal could be the first step in a bigger plan to revive the Trailbreaker proposal to carry tar sands oil from Montreal on an existing pipeline across Vermont and to Maine. And it appears that Canadian consulate staff have taken notice.

CBC reports that New England Consul General Pat Binns spoke at a Portland, Maine City Council meeting on January 23 about the benefits of the “oilsands” during a debate about whether the city should continue to purchase tar sands-derived fuel for city vehicles. The Canadian consul in charge of foreign policy and diplomatic services Aaron Annable also addressed a Windham, Maine Town Council meeting on January 29 that had been called to hear from Environment Maine’s concerns about the pipeline reversal. Annable also attended a debate at a town hall meeting in Bethel, Maine on January 30 on an anti-tar sands resolution.

The article notes, “Larry Wilson, the president and CEO of Portland Montreal Pipe Line, (also) made a presentation in Windham and Portland (at the same meetings attended by the Canadian consulate officials). ..The company said it currently has no plans to reverse the pipeline but is exploring all opportunities including, but not limited to, a reversal that might result in the shipping of Alberta bitumen.” The Portland Pipe Line Company is owned by Imperial Oil Ltd., Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor Energy Corp.

“Foreign Affairs spokeswoman (Barbara Harvey) said Canada’s consul generals across the U.S. participate in events ‘to highlight the value of state-level trade with Canada’. …’The consul general’s participation in these specific events is part of his and our … wider mandate to promote Canada as a secure energy supplier to the U.S.’ Harvey added that similar events are likely to be held in the New England states in the future and Canadian officials will continue to participate ‘where it is appropriate and feasible to do so’.”

On October 10, 2012, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, 350.org, the Sierra Club and other groups released a report expressing concern that the Portland Pipe Line Company intends to open a new route to carry tar sands oil from Quebec to Maine and the Atlantic coast. At that time, the Globe and Mail reported, “Portland Pipe president Larry Wilson said there are no current plans to reverse the Portland-to-Montreal line. However, he added the market is changing dramatically and the company needs to be prepared to respond.”

To read the US report opposing this pipeline plan, go to http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/10/10-9. For Council of Canadians campaign blogs noting concerns about Line 9, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22line+9%22.

It might also be noted that in January 2011, the Council of Canadians was in Strasbourg, France to brief Members of the European Parliament on our concerns about CETA. At a meeting with twenty-one representatives of the European Parliament’s trade committee, an uninvited Canadian embassy official turned up to challenge our comments related to the tar sands and Europe’s fuel quality directive. She denied that Canada had raised this issue in relation to CETA. We easily countered her assertions and were strongly supported by an MEP who raised objections to Canada’s role in killing the second binding phase of the Kyoto protocol at the United Nations climate negotiations this past December in Cancun. More on that at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5177 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5664.