Privatizing a Basic Human Right: Water

Source: ReadtheDirt.org

By: Young Writers 

By Samuel Bliss

[ReadtheDirt.org] Editor’s Note: One of our young and empowered voices—Samuel Bliss—gives us a run down on the issue of bottled water in the Northwest. Even if we don’t want to admit it, the Northwest is not immune from large corporations acquiring rights to its water. This piece complements our previous piece “Bottle the Skagit River?”.

Sam Bliss is a junior studying Environmental Economics and Spanish at Western Washington University. He is a member of a team, along with fellow Students for Sustainable Water club members Anna Amundson and Julia Shure, which won a grant from the university’s Green Energy Fee fund to install water bottle filling stations on campus. The installation of these filtered-water dispensers was accompanied by a campaign to promote education and awareness regarding Bellingham’s municipal water source, Lake Whatcom, and the issues surrounding its maintenance and protection. Sam is an ardent activist for water as a human right rather than a for-profit commodity; he and his fellow club members are part of an ongoing crusade to ban the sale of bottled water at Western. Cycling, songwriting, reading, running, coffee-drinking, breathing, running, eating, singing, cooking, football, learning, laughing, cross-country skiing, crossword puzzles, yoga, and the guitar are among Sam’s many other passions.

The commoditization and privatization of water has taken off with the relatively new advent of bottled water. But why is this so bad? Typically, the lofty price of bottled water is a good place to start. If you’re lucky enough to find a machine where you can still buy a 20-ounce bottle for one dollar, you’re paying 5 cents per ounce of liquid. Compare that to the price of gasoline: even for $3 per gallon of gas, each ounce costs just a fraction over 2 cents. Most municipal water, where bottled water companies like Dasani (Coca-Cola) and Aquafina (Pepsi) get their water, in contrast costs less than 1 cent per gallonThis creates an exorbitant profit margin that puts even oil companies to shame.

EartH2O, an Oregon bottled water company, is just one example of a company taking advantage of these huge revenue-to-cost discrepancies. EartH2O’s water comes from the same natural sources as the Opal Springs municipal water. Not only are they ripping off those who buy their water, they are selling a public resource to turn a private profit.

Nestlé Waters North America, a division of Switzerland-based Nestlé SA – the largest food-and-beverage company in the world – attempted to do the same thing in Enumclaw, Washington in 2008. The plan was to collect water from Boise Spring, a major water source for the city, and bottle it in a 250,000-square-foot plant nearby. Calculations done by the city concluded that with Nestlé taking it’s share, the public system would no longer be able to support new costumers by 2038. This concern was compounded with others such as the expected increase in truck traffic and the company’s business practices elsewhere; ultimately, the proposal was shot down by a 6-1 City Council vote before the details of the project had even been hashed out. Nestlé has a track record of using predatory tactics to obtain rights to pump public spring water at far below market prices.

In addition to being denied the right to bottle Enumclaw’s water, Nestlé has withdrawn proposed projects in Black Diamond and Orting, Washington for logistical reasons, according to company officials. The corporation continues to look for new sources in the Pacific Northwest, and has had its sights set on Cascade Locks, Oregon, in the Columbia River Gorge region, for quite some time now. Though the city’s leaders at first welcomed the proposal as an opportunity to provide a boost to their local economy through property tax collection and job creation, dissent (mostly from critics of Nestlé and of bottled water in general rather than from Cascade Locks community members) has held the plan at bay for several years now. The current state of the situation, according to The Sierra Club: “The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) holds the water rights for Oxbow Springs in the Columbia River Gorge, which it currently uses for a fish hatchery. To enable Nestlé to bottle and sell the spring water, ODFW has proposed creating a water exchange with the City of Cascade Locks: ODFW would get access to Cascade Locks’ municipal water [to use for its hatchery] and Cascade Locks would get access to the spring water which it would in turn sell to Nestlé [at the municipal water rate].” The Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) must approve this permit proposal, and has indicated it will make a decision on the permit in the next month or two.

Municipal water sources are tested for toxins and contaminants hundreds of times per month under the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency, and scores are made public in the Environmental Working Group’s National Tap Water Database. Bottled water, on the other hand, is in theory regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however the FDA does not have even one staff member fully designated to oversee the industry. About 60 to 70 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. is not subject to any federal oversight because it is sold in the same state as it is bottled, according to theNatural Resources Defense Council. This is because the FDA is responsible only for bottled water that is shipped across state boundaries. Most states claim to regulate this FDA oversight-exempt water, yet dedicate very few, if any, resources to this monitoring; more than 10 states do not supervise their intrastate bottled water at all.

Waste stands as another major effect of the consumption of bottled water; 1.5 million tons of plastic waste are created each year by bottled water. These plastic bottles are produced using up to 47 million gallons of oil, according to Food and Water Watch. Approximately 30 million of the 80 million single-serving water bottles consumed each day are simply thrown away, as reported by the 2009 feature-length documentary Tapped.

Plastic does not biodegrade, rather it photo-degrades. This means that it is broken into smaller and smaller pieces by light, until the fragments can be mistaken for plankton or other food by marine and avian life. Almost all plastics ever produced remain in existence.

Bottled water is only a small part of an infinitely more disturbing trend: the global shift toward the privatization of local freshwater supplies. The access to safe and affordable water is an undeniable right that must not be commoditized by multinational corporations buying up groundwater and distribution rights in an effort to take advantage of the fact that water is fast becoming the world’s most precious resource. No one should be profiting from water scarcity. Clean water shortages arise from the superabundance of pollution and the lack of adequate environmental protection, but corporate control is not the solution. Instead we must focus on new and innovative ways to conserve the clean water we still have and to purify the dirty water. Human ingenuity is the answer; it’s a resource that is often overlooked in our doomsday predictions.

 

Skagit County Backs Away from Water Fight

Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash.

By KATE MARTIN | Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 6:00 am

MOUNT VERNON — Skagit County will no longer spend money to defend rural water users’ rights in court, a county commissioner said Monday.

The commissioners sent a letter to Department of Ecology officials last week that notes that the county has no actual authority in controlling water and no obligation or right to negotiate property interests for landowners. While the letter does not state specifically that the county will back off of participating in the legal disputes, Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt said that is the intent.

The county has spent millions of dollars and in more than a decade of legal and political wrangling over water.

Skagit County Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt said Monday that some of those property owners have been frustrated that the county won’t issue  building permits in that low-flow basin. Many don’t understand the county’s role.

“All we are is the messenger, and a lot of times if the message is bad news, they kill the messenger,” Dahlstedt said. “If by stepping back, we can help de-escalate the battle, that’s what we are trying to do.”

Skagit’s Water Rights Showdown

 Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash.

Kate Martin | Posted: Monday, April 23, 2012 11:34 am

As rain pummeled the ground in big, fat drops last week, state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen remarked on what has become one of the most contentious issues in Skagit County.

“It’s hard when you look out the window (to think) that we have a crisis in water up here,” she said.

While the issue of how much water is available for development in Skagit County is hotly contested, the real dispute boils down to how that water is parceled out.

That issue has culminated in decades of political wrangling, pitting county interests against state and utility demands and the local Swinomish Indian Tribal Community against the county and state, all the while racking up millions of dollars in legal costs and dragging in state lawmakers — even the Governor’s office.

Most recently, the battle has seemingly sunk to a level of name-calling and personal attacks, with the county commissioners’ attorney calling the mayor of Anacortes a former “semi-employed local handyman” in a letter to state legislators.

Meanwhile, some frustrated property owners have been left stuck in the middle, not knowing whether they’ll ever be able to develop their land.

Haugen said the power struggle over water in Skagit County is “sort of like divorce court … There’s been a lot of finger-pointing.”

County commissioners have said the idea of a water shortage in wet western Washington is hard to accept and the real issue is that the Swinomish tribe wants to control growth in the county.

The Swinomish, who say they’ve challenged the state and county to protect the salmon population, contend the county is waging a campaign against them to hide the fact that the county and Ecology agreed to limit development in several stream basins.

The Swinomish say the state Department of Ecology is arbitrarily allowing water to be withdrawn from those basins, which harms salmon habitat.

In the end, “I think there’s enough sin to go around for everybody,” Haugen said of the decades-old battle.


Skagit County/The Right to Local Self-Government

Kai Huschke of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund will speak about Democracy School and a Community Bill of Rights on Fri., May 4, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Burlington Library, 820 E. Washington Ave. Burlington. Democracy School teaches the right to local, self-government that enables communities to reject unsustainable economic and environmental policies set by government and enables legal framework that charters sustainable energy production, sustainable land development and sustainable water, among others. A Community Bill of Rights tailors rights-based local laws according to a community’s needs. For more information, call 360-293-8128 or see http://www.celdf.org/.

Environment group says it will sue to stop Garden Parkway in Charlotte, NC

Posted: Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012

On the heels of a successful lawsuit that has stopped construction of a Union County toll road, an environmental group said it will file a new federal lawsuit Tuesday to thwart another planned toll project – the Garden Parkway in Gaston County.

The Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill alleges that the N.C. Turnpike Authority did a “defective” environmental impact study for the parkway, a planned 21.9-mile toll road that cuts through southern Gaston County.

The law center alleges that the state gamed its federally required study in order to obtain the necessary state and federal permits.

It had previously filed a lawsuit to stop the Monroe Connector/Bypass, which was supposed to begin construction this year.

The federal government requires major highway projects to do what’s known as a “build vs. no build” study, which projects the impacts of building the highway against not building it.

In the case of the Monroe Connector/Bypass, the law center said that the N.C. Turnpike Authority assumed the toll road had already been built, resulting in a “build vs. build” study.

That showed little impact from the toll road’s construction. The law center said that made it easier to receive required permits.

In May, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in favor of the law center and criticized the state for failing to do the study properly.

That has forced the state to delay the project indefinitely.

“We think (the Garden Parkway study) is worse than Monroe,” said Kym Hunter, an attorney with the law center.

The state had been expecting litigation concerning the Garden Parkway, which is one of the most controversial highway projects in the state.

Greer Beaty, a spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said the environmental studies for the parkway are correct. She said she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit until the state has had time to review it.

Supporters of the Garden Parkway say it will provide Gaston County with a much-needed link across the Catawba River, and provide an economic jolt to the county.

Opponents say the nearly $1 billion project won’t improve traffic congestion on Interstate 85 and that it will lead to sprawl and environmental damage.

One report showed that the Garden Parkway would actually cost Gaston County 900 jobs if it were built. The reason, according to the state study, is that the toll road would encourage jobs to move into South Carolina.

After that number was publicized, parkway supporters commissioned a study by UNC Charlotte economics professor John Connaughton, who said the project would bring up to 18,000 jobs to Gaston.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/08/28/3483570/environment-group-says-it-will.html#storylink=cpy

The Deadly Connection: Endless War and Economic Crisis

 

Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, and member of Veterans For Peace -Bruce Gagnon will speak on U.S. expanding militarism, and its impact on the economic crisis here at home. He will stress the need to promote the conversion of the military industrial complex to sustainable production if we hope to have any impact on climate change. 

Washington State Speaking Schedule

April 23 –Olympia –To be determined

April 24 –Olympia –6:30 PM, Traditions Café, 300 5th Avenue Southwest

April 25 –Walla Walla –7:00 PM, Whitman College, Olin Hall

April 26 —Bellingham-4:00 PM, Western Washington University, Arntzen Hall

April 27 –Bellingham –7:00 PM, Mt. Baker Theatre’s Encore Room

April 28 –Seattle –7:30 –8:00 AM, Interviewed on KEXP, 90.3 FM

April 28 –Redmond-1:00 PM, Soul Food Books, 15748 Redmond Way

April 29 –Seattle –4:00 pm, University Temple United Methodist Church

April 30 –Tacoma –12:30 –1:30 pm, University of Washington, Tacoma, Carwein Auditorium

Sponsors of the Seattle area events include Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Veterans for Peace (Seattle Chapter), United Nations Association, Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation, University Temple United Methodist Church, The Alliance for Democracy and the Abe Keller Peace Education Fund.

More details at http://psnukefree.blogspot.com/p/events.html

Stop The New England Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

Posted Apr. 20, 2012 | Posted by: Kim Huynh

http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2012-04-stop-the-new-england-tar-sands-oil-pipeline

Enbridge, the Canadian oil giant responsible for a massive tar sands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan not yet two years ago, now wants to pipe tar sands oil—the world’s dirtiest oil—through New England with its Trailbreaker pipeline project.

The Trailbreaker tar sands pipeline project

In August 2011, Enbridge filed a permit application with Canada’s National Energy Board to revive a previous tar sands project, called Trailbreaker. Trailbreaker would transport tar sands oil along an approximately 750-mile route from Ontario and Quebec in Eastern Canada through Vermont, New Hampshire, and terminating in Portland, Maine’s Casco Bay, where the oil would be exported into the international market on super tankers.

The oil industry’s scheme to link the Midwestern pipeline system through eastern Canada and across New England to East Coast ports for export to refineries in the Gulf Coast or overseas was shelved a few years ago and defined as commercially nonviable. The Trailbreaker project would reverse the direction of oil flowing through two major pipelines—Enbridge Line 9 and the Portland/Montreal Pipeline.

Enbridge’s permit application to the Canadian National Energy Board for their Line 9 pipeline reversal is an indication that it’s once again putting the Trailbreaker project back on the table. Although Enbridge has claimed this is a standalone project, the application appears to signal the rebirth of Trailbreaker.

By dividing up the project into two smaller segments, Enbridge could be attempting to shield itself from the type of scrutiny faced by tar sands pipelines like TransCanada’s Keystone XL. Enbridgeacknowledged in late 2011 that it was actively pursuing plans to bring tar sands to Ontario, Quebec, and New England.

Tar sands: more toxic than conventional oil

The extraction and processing of tar sands oil is one of the largest industrial operations in the world. Tar sands extraction requires strip mining huge tracts of the pristine Boreal Forest in Alberta, Canada—an area the size of Florida is slated for extraction.

Tar sands oil emits three times more greenhouse gases during production than conventional gasoline and about three barrels of water are polluted and dumped in toxic pools (called tailing ponds) for every barrel of oil produced. These processes use enough energy to make tar sands oil production the fastest-growing contributor to Canada’s carbon pollution and the continent’s biggest carbon bomb.

Tar sands extraction also harms the health and cultural traditions of indigenous communities living downstream from the extraction sites and has been connected to high rates of rare cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism in the area.

Tar sands pipelines: built to spill

Tar sands pipelines have an abysmal safety record, with a spill rate three times the national average for conventional oil in some parts of the US, putting communities at risk of devastating oil spills and pollution to air and drinking water.

Pipeline safety regulators at the Department of Transportation haven’t yet studied the safety of pipelines that carry tar sands crude or set forth specialized regulations for such pipelines, despite safety concerns unique to corrosive tar-sands oil compared to conventional crude oil. These pipelines must operate at higher temperatures and pressures to move the thick tar sands through a pipe and are subject to severe problems with leak detection and safety issues from the unstable mixture. Tar sands crude is particularly dangerous for older pipelines like the Trailbreaker  pipelines, which were constructed during World War II.

Enbridge was responsible for a million gallon  tar sands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in June 2010. Two years later, the clean-up costs have surpassed $700 million, residents are still sick from the spill’s toxins, small businesses are still hurting, property values are down, and miles of river remain closed. Now Enbridge wants to pipe tar sands oil through New England with its Trailbreaker project.

Trailbreaker: threatening New England’s natural and cultural landscapes

Trailbreaker would cut through New England’s most important waters, including Sebago Lake, home to a native species of landlocked Atlantic salmon and the major drinking water resource for greater Portland, Maine’s largest metropolitan area. It also terminates at Casco Bay, a large, rich estuary near Portland, Maine that is home to a variety of coastal natural resources and a thriving marine economy.

Trailbreaker would also put at risk Grand River Basin, Lake Ontario, the Saint Lawrence River, Victory State Forest, and Androscoggin River. A spill along Trailbreaker’s corridor could harm rivers, lakes, and bays that are vital resources for millions of people in Canada and the United States.

Take Action

As Canadian regulators begin to consider Enbridge’s plan, it’s crucial that people on both sides of the border speak out. Friends of the Earth is joining with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and other environmental and public interest groups in New England and Canada to deliver more than 25,000 comments to the Canadian National Energy Board before the deadline this Monday.

By showing that people in both Canada and the U.S. are taking a stand against tar sands oil, you can help us turn up the heat on the National Energy Board to conduct a full accounting of the pipeline’s risks to people’s health and the environment—and continue to build the cross-border coalition we need to stop the tar sands industry once and for all.

Sign the petition today to the Canadian National Energy Board to demand a thorough review of the pipeline’s likely impacts on New England’s water and communities.

 More information on the Trailbreaker project:

Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/keystonetrailbeaker.pdf

The Pembina Institute: http://www.pembina.org/pub/2317

Rabble.ca: http://rabble.ca/news/2013/05/other-enbridge-pipeline-ontarios-line-9-project

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/26/us-enbridge-line-idUSTRE77P0Q820110826

Comite pour l’Environment de Dunham CEDunham

Sunday, March 18, citizens came to celebrate the victory of the citizen Stéphane Durand, who as a David against Goliath, won an important victory over pipeline Montreal Ltd. company. It should be noted that the judge of the Court of Quebec dismissed the appeal of pipe-lines Montréal ltée, dated February 16, 2012. Pipe-lines Montréal ltée had appealed a decision of the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec giving reason Mr. Durand.
The meeting of citizens was festive and the members of the Committee on the environment for Quebec are more determined than ever to follow this folder for a large area of southwestern Quebec, highwater to the border of the United States in Montreal.

Halting The Pumping Station

This Canadian radio report tells how citizen campaign group CEDunham fought for 4 years to prevent the permitting of a pump station in their town of Dunham, Quebec. The pump station was required to reverse the flow of oil to allow tar sands to be pumped through the Enbridge Trailbreaker system.

This is a powerful grassroots story about the CEDunham group’s victory asserting their right to have local control where they live.
How are communities in the US working to create laws to protect their towns from corporate power and the government’s regulatory system? Read here:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/stand-up-to-corporate-power/communities-take-power
Dunham,Quebec

Plan to Build East Coast Gateway for Canada’s Oil Sands Hits Legal Snag

Court of Quebec ruling could hinder plans to reverse the flow of a pipeline to carry oil sands from Montreal to Maine, environmentalists say.

WASHINGTON—A little-publicized Canadian court decision has thrown a monkey wrench into an on-again, off-again proposal to transport oil from tar sands mines in Alberta to a U.S. seaport in Maine for export.

Last month, judges with the Court of Quebec rejected a Montreal-based oil pipeline company’s request to construct a pumping station near the Quebec-Vermont border. The court case pitted environmentalists and Quebec citizens against the owners of a South Portland, Maine-to-Montreal, Quebec oil pipeline.

Halting the pumping station is part of an overarching strategy by environmentalists to challenge Canada’s expansion of tar sands oil extraction. They fear the station is the linchpin in opening an eastern gateway for the flow of a dirtier grade of oil from western Canada to Maine. From there, it would likely be shipped to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The pumping station is a crucial piece of Montreal Pipe Line Ltd.’s plan to reverse the flow direction of its pipeline. Currently, that pipeline carries conventional crude oil from a tanker facility in South Portland to refineries in Montreal. It traverses 236 miles through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

From Montreal, the offshore oil is now funneled onto Enbridge Inc.’s Pipeline 9, which travels west all the way to Sarnia, Ontario.

Montreal Pipe Line’s request to reverse the flow on the South Portland-Montreal pipeline has had environmentalists on edge for several years because it came in tandem with the Trailbreaker project that Enbridge Inc. first floated in 2008.

That proposal by Enbridge—a separate oil transport company based in Calgary, Alberta—entailed switching the flow on 524-mile Pipeline 9 from westerly to easterly. The 30-inch diameter pipeline currently has the capacity to move 240,000 barrels daily.

Montreal Pipe Line and Enbridge have not talked publicly about collaborating to pump tar sands oil to Maine’s Atlantic Coast—but environmental organizations connected the dots long ago.

Enbridge blamed market conditions when it officially shelved its Trailbreaker proposal in 2009. But green groups say the company backpedaled on Trailbreaker when challengers put the reversal idea under a microscope. Conservationists suspect the company is now trying to accomplish the same goal in piecemeal fashion.

As evidence, they point to Enbridge’s 2011 application with Canada’s National Energy Board to reverse the flow on Pipeline 9 between Sarnia and Westover, Ontario. Westover is roughly halfway between Sarnia and Montreal.Line 9 Reversal/Credit: EnbridgeLine 9 Reversal/Credit: Enbridge

Steven Guilbeault is deputy director of Equiterre, the Montreal-based environmental advocacy organization that spearheaded the legal challenge of the pumping station.

“Enbridge has been saying that its request for a reversal on phase one has nothing to do with getting tar sands from Alberta to Portland,” he told InsideClimate News. “But it’s hard for us to believe that.”

In an interview, Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Varey did not deny that the company might eventually try to reverse the direction of the entire Pipeline 9. But right now Enbridge is focused on phase one, the Sarnia-to-Westover segment, she said. Public hearings on that undertaking are scheduled for May 23 to 25.

Reversal of the Sarnia-to-Westover section is a priority of Imperial Oil Ltd., one of Enbridge’s key customers, Varey said. Imperial Oil has explained to Enbridge how an easterly flow would benefit its refinery near Westover and access to the Ontario market. A subsidiary of ExxonMobil, Imperial produces more than 200,000 barrels a day from tar sands mines, and claims proven oil sands reserves of more than 2.4 billion barrels.

Initially, Enbridge expects the reversed segment to carry light crude oil. But it will be capable of transporting a range of western Canadian crude oil from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Capacity would start at 50,000 barrels per day and eventually grow to 200,000 barrels per day.

Stopping the pumping station on the Montreal-to-South Portland segment will be a fleeting victory, environmentalists agree, if Enbridge’s Pipeline 9 is transformed into a route for shipping tar sands oil east.

Halting the Pumping Station

In May 2009, the commission in Quebec charged with protecting the province’s agricultural land approved Montreal Pipe Line’s request to rezone land to accommodate a pumping station in Dunham, Quebec, a community near the Vermont border. Company engineers had determined that station infrastructure would have to be situated at that spot to boost the heavy crude over the Sutton Mountains on its journey from Montreal to South Portland.

The agriculture commission’s decision was reversed in 2010 after Equiterre appealed to Quebec’s administrative tribunal. Last November, Equiterre continued to challenge the pipeline company’s quest for the pumping station as the case advanced to the Court of Quebec.

Judges with that provincial court agreed with the administrative tribunal that the zoning approval for the pumping station was invalid. Both bodies found that the agricultural commission failed to require Montreal Pipe Line to show that the pumping station could be built without encroaching on agricultural property. The pumping station’s footprint would measure roughly five acres.

The latest court ruling was issued Feb. 16. It was written in French and didn’t garner attention in the American press.

“That’s twice in a row we’ve been told by a Quebec judicial body that we are right so we are very pleased,” Guilbeault said. “But obviously it is far from being over.”

Attorneys for Montreal Pipe Line have 30 days to file an appeal over the latest decision. Though they had indicated interest in doing so, it does not appear that they had followed through as of Monday morning. Spokespeople did not return requests for comment from InsideClimate News.

Advocacy organizations such as the Natural Resources Council of Maine maintain that Montreal Pipe Line has tried to escape public scrutiny by saying it hasn’t applied for a permit to reverse the pipeline flow between South Portland and Montreal.

“The company has really tried to downplay this but I don’t think they’re fooling anyone,” said Dylan Voorhees, the Maine council’s clean energy project director. “If they appeal the court decision, it makes it clear the reversal is actively on the drawing board. The only reason to have a pumping station is to reverse the flow.”

Three pipelines actually are buried along the right-of-way route between Portland and Montreal. A 24-inch diameter pipe continues to carry oil while an 18-inch diameter line is currently deactivated. The third and smallest pipe, 12 inches in diameter, was mothballed in the early 1980s.

Suncor and Imperial Oil Ltd. are majority owners of the privately held Portland-Montreal pipeline. Suncor is Canada’s largest producer of oil sands.

Canadians, New Englanders Unite

Conservation organizations in Canada and New England have combined forces to try to hold Enbridge and Montreal Pipe Line accountable for their pursuit of pipeline reversals.

“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is to prevent tar sands from coming to Quebec and going on to Maine,” Guilbeault said. “We feel that a signal needs to be sent to the federal government and oil companies that what they are doing is unacceptable.”

The tar sands extraction industry is Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions of planet-warming gases. Citizens in both countries also are worried about the risks of pipeline spills and other accidents. In Maine, for instance, they are worried about the potential impact on Sebago Lake, a significant source of drinking water, and Casco Bay, vital to the state’s fishery and tourism industries.

Glen Brand, director of the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club, said advocates in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are strategizing to prevent Enbridge and Montreal Pipe Line from succeeding with their pipeline reversals. For instance, they are exploring whether the Montreal-to-South Portland portion would require a presidential permit because it crosses an international border.

“We think there are ways to stop these projects on a number of fronts,” Brand said. “They deserve public and technical scrutiny beyond what they have received.”

Environmental organizations are eager to start talking about an energy strategy for eastern Canada and the northeastern United States,” said Guilbeault, of Quebec’s Equiterre.

“Companies think provinces shouldn’t have any say about these matters, about where pumping stations and pipelines should go,” he said. “They say our national energy infrastructure should be under federal jurisdiction. We think it should be shared.”