Editorial: Newport City Council missed the boat

The Newport City Council missed the boat last week when approached about the possibility of putting a tar sands resolution on the agenda for the annual City Meeting in March.  The council could have welcomed city residents who want to talk about an important local issue.  Instead they snubbed them.

The council told residents and an environmental organizer who wants to put a question about tar sands on the ballot that they might accept a petition from 5 percent of the city’s voters and put it on the ballot.  Or they might not.

Traditionally, the city council has turned down items that are not strictly city business, aldermen told the voters.

In this discussion, they told voters and a representative of the Sierra Club that they should not put anything “politicized” on the ballot.

Isn’t the whole idea of Town Meeting Day about local politics?  How strange for the city’s leading political figures to say they want to avoid politics at their city meeting.

Beyond that, just whose city is Newport anyway?  If 5 percent of city voters want to talk about something, what harm is that going to do?

The city council seems to be saying that tar sands is not a local issue.

City Manager John Ward called the Sierra Club, “just one more lobbying group coming here to tell us how to live.”

But tar sands is definitely a local issue.  The Portland Pipeline goes through Newport Center, which borders the city.  The pipeline goes through a number of towns further south where the rivers drain into Lake Memphremagog.

Does the council believe that an oil spill into rivers and streams leading to Lake Memphremagog would not harm the city’s economy, not to mention the environment?  If there were a spill, we wouldn’t be eating bass, walleye, trout or perch for years to come.

Newport City’s annual meeting is typically a brief, perfunctory affair where almost no one comes and almost nothing is discussed.  The city’s business is done by paper ballot.

Certainly this works well in terms of getting a good number of people to vote on municipal and school budgets and elections.  It’s more convenient for working people to choose their voting time.

But the lack of discussion is unfortunate, and here is an opportunity to allow city residents to have a debate about an issue that could affect the city drastically.  What is the problem with allowing that discussion and even a vote on a resolution?

There is such a thing as being too provincial.  The Northeast Kingdom sometimes has that reputation, and it’s time for that to change.

The city council could have taken a step to welcome discussion on an important regional topic, but instead they mostly closed the door on it.  Why?  Tradition?  Maybe it’s time for a new tradition. — B.M.D.


Protest tar sands on a bridge over the Connecticut River January 23

To the editor and North Country Citizens:

Just go to Google Images and type in “Alberta Tar Sands” and you will see what it’s all about. It’s the dirtiest oil on the planet and there’s lots of it.  Mining it is literally destroying the boreal forest in the Northern HALF of Alberta Canada. James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist, says it’s “game over” for global warming if the tar sands oil is burned.

The largest oil spill in US history that you probably never heard about occurred just 2 years ago on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  To no one’s surprise it was tar sands oil. Tar sands crude oil contains sand making it more abrasive; and its pumped at higher pressure and higher temperature than regular crude oil. The result is increased odds of a pipeline spill. Its like hot liquid sandpaper.

Not to be deterred, the Canadian government and its corporate partners are hell bent on developing tar sands oil and exporting it to the world. Major corporate partners include Enbridge and the largest corporation in the history of the world Exxon Mobile.

You may have heard about the XL pipeline in the Midwest and the massive civil disobedience over it lead by Vermont’s own Bill McKibben. You may have heard about the tree sitter’s blockaide in Texas to stop another tar sands pipeline there. You probably did not hear about the arrest of news reporters trying to cover the Texas protesters – ala Chris Braithwaite from the Barton Chronicle.

You probably did not hear about the so far successful resistance to the tar sands pipeline in British Columbia; lead largely by First Nations tribes.

Not to be deterred, Enbridge and Exxon Mobile are pressing on:  to Vermont.

Despite denials there is no doubt they are quietly moving forward with a  previous plan called ”Trailbreaker” which would pump tar sands oil all the way from Alberta to Montreal to Portland Maine. Enbridge recently made formal application to reverse the flow of its line 9 pipeline in Ontario in order to pump tar sands oil to Montreal. Enbridge is also trying to get permission to build a pumping station near the US border. From Montreal to Portland the tar sands oil would flow through an existing oil pipeline through the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the North Country of New Hampshire and past Sebago Lake in Maine.

An “existing oil pipeline” – in Vermont? Who knew?! Wait, it’s worse. The pipeline crosses numerous rivers and streams, goes by Victory Bog and – and – it’s 60 years old! The owners of the pipeline (the parent company is Exxon Mobile) were recently cited by federal regulators for failure to properly maintain the pipeline.  . . . So . . .

On Wednesday, January 23, at High Noon on the bridge over the Connecticut River on Route 2 near Lancaster, New Hampshire, delegations from Vermont and New Hampshire will join hands over the river  for a peaceful protest against tar sands oil.  The pipeline is 100 yards downstream from the bridge; and upstream from half of New England!

Will you join us?

For more info see www.tarsandsfreene.org 

or Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/466059446791428/

See you on the bridge!

Peter Blose