Canadian gov't moves to ward off latest oilsands PR problem

MONTREAL – The Canadian government has moved to defend the oil industry from yet another public-relations fire related to pipelines — this time on the U.S. East Coast.

Canada’s envoy to New England penned an editorial today in a Maine newspaper, two days after more than 1,000 protesters in the state expressed concern Alberta oil could soon flow across the region.

Consul General Pat Binns says in his op-ed that the environmental record of oilsands production has improved in recent years.

He also dismisses allegations that diluted oilsands bitumen is more corrosive in pipelines than other crudes.

The response comes as projects to send oilsands crude to the West Coast and the U.S. Gulf Coast have been stalled amid controversy, and oilpatch producers are searching for new ways to transport Canadian oil to market.

The Maine protest was against the prospect of Western Canadian oil eventually being pumped through an existing pipeline between Montreal and Portland.

Opposition to such a project on both sides of the border has grown.

No plan has actually been announced for such changes to the New England pipeline. However, politicians in Maine’s largest city have already discussed the possibility of banning the purchase of fuel from the oilsands for municipal vehicles.

Opponents say Alberta crude is more likely to cause spills and could put fragile ecosystems in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont at risk.

The critics say a recent proposal to pipe Alberta crude to Montreal could eventually lead to a flow reversal on the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line — which leads to the New England seacoast.