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House approves bill that addresses oil spill preparation

State House Bureau

April 23. 2014 8:51PM

CONCORD — The House wants state environmental regulators to be prepared and able to respond to a possible oil spill on the Portland to Montreal pipeline through the northern section of the state.

Currently crude oil is transported from Portland to Montreal through the 70-year-old pipeline, so far without a major incident.

However, there are concerns tar sands-derived oil could be transported through the pipeline and if the state is ready to respond is a spill occurs.

“The state has no authority to impose restrictions on this interstate pipeline,” said Rep. Suzanne Smith, D-Hebron, “but New Hampshire does have the authority to be prepared for a disastrous oil spill.”

Only one federal inspector is responsible for the entire Northeast and its thousands of miles of pipelines, she said, noting similar preparedness procedures are done for the Portsmouth area along the river where oil is transported by rail.

Under Senate Bill 325 the pipeline company would be required to submit a spill response plan to the state.

Smith noted the Canadian government recently granted permission to move tar sand products through that country’s portion of the pipeline with the expectation the products will eventually be transported to Maine.

The state’s Congressional delegation recently wrote the Department of Commerce saying reversing the flow of the pipeline for tar sands products would be a substantial shift with the potential of impacting wildlife and the environment if a spill were to occur, Smith noted.

Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, said the state would be duplicating what a federal agency currently does.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Agency requires the pipeline company to present a response plan, which is exactly the same plan the state would require.

“My objection is for us to take our own employees who are doing a worthwhile job and have them do something already done by a federal agency,” McGuire said. “It’s not needed.”

The House voted 186-104 to approve Senate Bill 325.

The senate has already approved the bill, which now goes to Gov. Maggie Hassan.

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