Supporters hope new legislation helps to protect the state against potential oil spills

Last modified: 9/12/2014 11:56:07 PM
Gov. Maggie Hassan ceremoniously signed a trio of bills yesterday that supporters say will strengthen the state’s protections against oil spills. The legislation – passed by the House and Senate this session – will affect the Portland-Montreal Pipeline that passes through New Hampshire from Shelburne to Lancaster along Route 202, and any future projects.

Together, the bills aim to take control of the inspection of the pipelines and any spill mitigation planning, said Cathy Corkery of the New Hampshire Sierra Club.

“It will be a big step forward to protecting the North Country,” said Sheridan Brown, legislative coordinator for New Hampshire Audubon, the group that led the effort. “Our state’s economy so largely tied to recreation. It would be devastating economically to have a large-scale spill.”

Hassan put pen to paper at a ceremony yesterday in Randolph, surrounded by environmentalists and bill sponsors and co-sponsors.

The first of the three bills makes sure the state is doing everything it can to prepare for a potential spill, Brown said.

It gives power to the state’s Department of Environmental Services to take the existing federal regulations, which govern a pipeline operator’s response plan in case of a spill, a step further, making them stricter.

“It’s to make sure they have the right plan in place and can implement it,” Brown said. A plan that “makes most sense to New Hampshire.”

The second bill, Brown said, makes sure the state is doing everything it can to prevent a spill. Under the legislation, a New Hampshire agency will take over pipeline inspections from the federal inspection agency. Currently, the federal agency has 135 agents who oversee 2.6 million miles of pipeline, Brown said. Putting inspections into the state’s hands means the pipeline will be inspected more frequently and effectively, said Rep. William Baber a Dover Democrat who sponsored the bill.

The final bill calls for a committee to look at safe delivery and transport of a number of fuels, including oil, gas and propane through the state. “It’s taking a look and saying, are there further steps warranted here that we should take,” Brown said.

“These bills really take control over these very local issues, I think, in a really positive way,” Corkery said.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at

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