N.H. Has Authority Over Any "Sizeable Change" To Portland-Montreal Pipeline

Feb 25, 2013

The Portland-Montreal Pipeline currently carries crude from Portland to Montreal for refining.
Credit A.F. Litt / Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services says it might have authority over a controversial project to reverse a crude oil pipeline that crosses the North Country. In a memo DES says while pipelines are regulated by the federal government, it would need to issue a permit for any quote “sizeable change or addition” to line. It does not specify if it considers reversing the flow of the line would be considered such a change.

This matters because, for months environmental groups have been saying that the owners of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline are planning to reverse the line and ship crude from the Alberta oil-sands across the Granite State.

The company has consistently said that no such plan is in the works, but the CEO of the company, Larry Wilson, did recently tell the Vermont Legislature this.

Wilson: I want to be clear, while we do not have a project today, we’re aggressively pursuing every opportunity to make use of these excellent assets, and that includes the possibility of reversing our pipeline, and it includes the possibility of moving oil from the western Canadian Oil sands.

If the pipeline were reversed, it would carry the same oil that is envisioned for the embattled Keystone XL pipeline. Environmentalists have been protesting the extraction of that oil, saying that it takes more energy and more environmental damage to extract it. They also say when this oil spills, because it is 

The pipeline crosses through the North Country along Rt. 2.
Credit wikipedia

  heavier, it is much more difficult to clean up.

One bone of contention is whether this oil is more likely to spill. The National Academy of Sciences is engaged in study that is attempting to determine if oil-sands crude is more corrosive to the interior of oil pipelines, the results of which are expected in the spring of 2014.