Burlington City Council passes resolution disapproving transport of tar sands oil across Vermont

Copies of resolution sent to Harper and Enbridge, among others. Is this the opening volley of battles to follow?

No 636 Posted by fw, December 19, 2012

Burlington is Vermont’s largest city (metro pop. 211,261 in 2010). It’s situated on the upper west side of the state, 45 miles south of the Vermont-Quebec border, on the shores of Lake Champlain.  This peripheral location leave lots of state land to construct the Vermont leg of a pipeline between Montreal and Portland, Maine. Although the resolution carries symbolic significance, by itself, it has no legislative power to prevent pipeline construction. However, the resolution does direct the City to take other definitive action within the scope of its municipal powers.

Burlington takes tough stance on tar sands oil, by Joel Banner Baird, Burlington Free Press, December 18, 2012

This week, Burlington City Council approved energy policies that direct the city to identify and then reduce its use of (and investments in) tar-sand derived fuels.

Burlington’s long-standing policy of reducing its reliance on fossil fuels has grown teeth this week.

On Monday, the City Council voted its disapproval over the transport of tar-sands oil across the state, which it termed as an unacceptable risk to “public health and safety, property values and our natural resources.”

Supporters of the measure prevailed in a 10-4 vote.

A commercial pipeline between Portland, Maine, and Montreal crosses Vermont — and is under discussion as a conduit for crude oil from western Canada to the East Coast.

Tar-sand crude is thicker and more abrasive than “sweet” crude, experts say; the combination of the former’s texture and high heavy-metal content pose an added risk of toxic spills.

Other critics of tar-sand oil decry its potential to release substantially more carbon into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating global climate changes.

But the council’s resolution is not merely speculative or symbolic. It also requires the city to:

• shift the municipal fleet away from fossil-derived fuels through efficiency, alternative fuel vehicles and through reduced vehicle use — and for the council’s Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee to report back to the full council within three months on steps taken;

• direct that committee to assess the feasibility of requiring fuel vendors to the city to provide current lists of refinery sources, and to direct the city to buy, whenever possible, fuel from non-tar-sands sources;

• direct the Retirement Board to take action to remove money from investments in oil companies that profit from tar-sands oil — and to report back to the council by March 11;

• direct the Burlington Electric Commission to examine the possibility of using federal stimulus funds to develop a “co-generation” capacity (piping its surplus/waste heat to residential and business customers) — also with a March 11 deadline; and

• transmit a copy of the resolution to the governor of Vermont, the Vermont congressional delegation, the Canadian prime minister and the CEOs of companies associated with the pipeline: Portland Pipe Line Corporation, Montreal Pipe Line Limited, Imperial Oil Limited, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Enbridge, Inc., BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

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