Vermonters debate tar sands pipeline - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermonters debate tar sands pipeline

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Twenty-four Vermont communities spent Town Meeting Day taking on a sticky issue.

"Tar sands are a kind of deposit that is oil mixed with sand," explained Andy Simon of the environmental advocacy group 350 Vermont.

In places like Burlington, Middlebury and Calais voters were being asked to take a stand on the possibility of transporting the Canadian fuel source through a pipeline that runs from Montreal to Portland, Maine, by way of the Northeast Kingdom.

Some in the Queen City opposed the idea.

"There's a lot of places that things aren't affected directly and you still don't want them," said Johanna Page of Burlington.

Others said it was not their place to regulate possible new business.

"I am quite a proponent of the free market system," said Barbara Shaw-Dorso of Burlington.

The pipeline in question runs through nearly a dozen communities including Jay, Burke, Barton and Troy. Yet none of these communities are taking up the issue.

"Well, I think they are trying to get people to stick their nose in up here where it doesn't belong," said Sen. Bobby Starr, D-Essex/Orleans.

Starr and others at Troy's town meeting said the debate over tar sands in the Northeast Kingdom is one NEK communities can have for themselves.

"I think it should be left up to the towns," said Steve Dobler of Troy. "I think it should be on an individual town basis."

"Personally, I feel that people of the Northeast Kingdom can handle their own situations," Starr said. "We really don't need outsiders telling us what's best and what's not best for our area."

The environmental advocacy group 350 Vermont is largely behind the push to keep tar sands out of Vermont.

"It would be a disaster for the entire state, not just for the Northeast Kingdom if there were a pipeline leak," Simon said.

The group admits early traction has come from outside the NEK, but that the region is on its radar.

"We're starting with what we have down here and relatively limited capacity for organizing and we're working our way up there," Simon said.

The question now is will they be welcome?

Starr points out that there is no current proposal to run the tar sands through the pipeline and those looking to prevent it may be putting the cart ahead of the horse.

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