Tar Sands Solutions Network

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Tar Sands Free

One of the most promising efforts to curtail tar sands development is the commitment of cities, universities, foundations, businesses and religious institutions to stop using tar sands-based products or investing in companies that profit from tar sands production. 

In 2013, fossil fuel divestment campaigns spread like wildfire around the globe. So far, 29 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, and dozens of foundations and religious institutions worldwide have agreed to stop investing in companies involved in the production and promotion of tar sands crude.

Numerous businesses have passed resolutions to stop using tar sands-derived fuels, and more than a few municipalities have decided to prohibit the transport of tar sands crude through theri communities. 

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- Companies, municipalities, universities, and religious institutions to no tar sands in their fuel supplies and investment portfolios
Key Problems:
- Tar sands oil is significantly dirtier than alternatives
- Many companies, cities and states and the entire European Union are taking action to reduce emissions 
Current Status:
- 19 global corporations, 30 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, dozens of religious institutions, and the EU have adopted policies unfavourable to tar sands

Cities, churches, universities and businesses across North America and Europe are taking climate action seriously by refusing to purchase tar sands fuel or invest in tar sands companies. Others have adopted policies to prohibit the use or transport of tar sands-related products. 

Bellingham, Washington, adopted new guidelines to minimize fuel purchasing from refineries taking feed stock from Canada’s tar sands. Building on the Bellingham model, dozens of New England towns and municipalities have also committed to going Tar Sands Free. Twenty-nine towns and cities in Vermont, including Burlington, the state’s largest city, passed resolutions opposing the transportation of tar sands crude through “The Green Mountain State” and committing to eliminating the use of tar sands-derived fuels in the area. Three towns in Maine – Bethel, Casco and Waterford – have passed similar resolutions, and the list grows every month.

In Maine, South Portland City Council passed an ordinance that prevents the Portland Pipe Line Corporation or others from building the large, polluting smokestacks necessary to load any form of tar sands crude oil onto tankers in its beautiful coastal port.

The business community also has joined the opposition to Canada’s dirty tar sands fuels. So far nearly twenty large businesses have publicly announced actions they have taken to reduce the environmental and social impacts of fossil-fueled transportation. Popular brands including Avon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Chiquita, eBay, Trader Joes, Walgreens and Whole Foods are all committed to reducing their use of dirty fuels like tar sands in their operations.

If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Institutions and governments that purport to serve the public good should not invest in, and profit from, from the extraction, production and consumption of fossil fuels. Just 200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. 350.org’s Fossil Free campaign has inspired hundreds of campaigns all over the world to encourage universities, religious institutions, and city and municipal governments to reject tar sands oil as a responsible source of energy and jettison their investments in tar sands companies.

It’s working. So far, 30 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, 19 corporations and dozens of foundations and religious institutions worldwide have agreed to stop investing in companies involved in the production and promotion of tar sands crude.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, for instance, has directed his staff not to invest the city’s $1.4 billion operating fund in fossil fuel companies, and has asked the governing board to do likewise for the city’s pension fund. The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), an international conservation organization whose mission is to save threatened species by making conservation efforts more effective, decided to divest its investment portfolio of fossil fuel companies so it can “serve as a model and provide an invitation to the zoo and aquarium community to join us in this movement. The Sante Fe Art Institute and the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee have followed suit.

The overwhelming commitment to avoiding tar sands-related investment vehicles and products is a welcome sign that society is beginning to understand that the risks associated with tar sands development are incompatible with a clean energy economy and a sustainable future that prevents the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Tar Sands Free Updates & Resources

Fossil fuel divestment fever hits UBC and other Canadian campuses

Mychaylo Prystupa | Vancouver Observer - January 27th 2015

Press Clipping: Can universities really force a change in the world’s fossil fuel companies? More than 220 University of British Columbia professors think so. In a key faculty vote this week, the educators signed a petition pledging they will cast their ballots to urge UBC to sell off the university's holdings of the world’s “200 most polluting” fossil fuel companies. They want the university's corporate stocks in oil, coal and gas divested, all in the next five years. UBC is the latest campus to catch what has become a nationwide fossil fuel divestment fever.

Fight over fossil fuel investments reaches Atlantic Canada’s university board rooms

Darren Campbell | Natural Resources Magazine - December 2nd 2014

Press Clipping: Not surprisingly, oil and gas companies are high on the list of firms the divestment crowd doesn’t want universities involved in. I’m writing about this subject today on a blog that, admittedly, takes an industrial view of things because the divestment movement is another example of how difficult an environment it is for oil and gas companies to get their message out so they can advance their projects and obtain a social licence to operate.

Tar sands vote in Maine shows communities can stand up for wildlife and win big

July 22nd 2014

Blog Post: The people of South Portland, Maine, made historic news last night. The City Council passed an ordinance that prevents the Portland Pipe Line Corporation or others from building the large, polluting smokestacks necessary to load any form of tar sands crude oil onto tankers in its beautiful coastal port. NWF asked the Natural Resources Council of Maine's Clean Energy Director, Dylan Voorhees, what this vote means.

VICTORY: South Portland passes tar sands ordinance 6 votes to 1


July 22nd 2014

Blog Post: In an historic vote, the South Portland City Council tonight voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance to protect the city from a tar sands crude oil terminal. “We may be a small city, but, boy, we’ve done a big thing tonight! The Clear Skies Ordinance protects our air, our coast, and our community,” said Mary-Jane Ferrier, spokesperson for Protect South Portland. “We are absolutely thrilled, relieved, and exhausted. Of course, we know it may not be over yet, and we’re committed to defend this victory from oil industry attacks.”

Tar sands battleground: South Portland

John Richardson | Portland Press Herald - July 20th 2014

Press Clipping: The battle of South Portland’s residents to keep tar sands crude out of their community shows that what’s happening in this Maine city is just one part of an ongoing fight over Canada’s plans to expand tar sands production in Alberta.

Sierra Club makes it easier for corporate fleets to go tar-sands free

Michael Marx, Beyond Oil Campaign Director | Sierra Club - May 1st 2014

Blog Post: Today the Sierra Club released its new Tar Sands Fuel in Corporate Fleets report outlining steps that corporations can take to avoid fuels derived from tar sands crude in their company's cars and trucks. The report identifies 39 U.S. oil refineries that do not process tar sands crude into gasoline and diesel fuel. The Sierra Club is asking companies to avoid whenever possible fuel derived from the high-carbon, highly polluting Alberta tar sands.

Vermont towns pass resolutions opposing tar sands

Editors | Tar Sands Solutions Network - March 5th 2014

Press Clipping: At Town Meeting 2014, Vermonters again expressed wide concern over the possibility of toxic tar sands being transported through an aging pipeline in the Northeast Kingdom or by other means. As of Tuesday night, residents of at least 12 towns – some of them crossed by the 60-year-old pipeline, others nearby – reported that they had passed resolutions expressing concerns and calling for careful environmental review of any proposal regarding tar sands.

Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church votes to divest from fossil fuel companies


Christine | 350orbust.com - February 25th 2014

Blog Post: The congregation of Trinity-St Paul’s United Church in Toronto voted unanimously on Sunday at its Annual General Meeting to lend its voice to the fast-growing divestment movement, and to ensure that its own funds are not invested in any of the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies. The vote confirms a long-standing commitment to climate justice, which has been a key priority of the congregation for the past decade.