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Vt. bill delayed after threatening law firm letter

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The Vermont Senate has delayed action on a bill toughening environmental reviews over possible changes in the use of an oil pipeline after the state's leading business law firm sent a letter raising the possibility of a lawsuit against the state if the bill passes.

The Senate was to vote Thursday whether to apply Vermont's Act 250 environmental law to a possible reversal of flow in the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line that could allow Canadian tar sands oil to be shipped across northern New England to South Portland, Maine.

The letter from the law firm Downs Rachlin Martin says the bill would discriminate against the company that owns the pipeline, may be pre-empted by federal law and may interfere with the president's power to rule on foreign oil shipments.