by Ramona Du Houx
“The people of Casco have spoken,” said Casco select board chair Mary Fernandes. “We feel as a town that transporting tar sands oil through the Portland-Montreal pipeline poses unpredictable risks to the health, safety, natural resources, property and economic welfare of Casco residents.”
Casco residents voted on January 12, 2013 to pass a municipal resolution stating opposition to sending tar sands oil through Exxon Mobil’s Portland-Montreal Pipeline, making it the first Maine town to publically and officially oppose the proposal. The 62-year-old pipeline, which stretches 236 miles from Montreal to South Portland, is being considered for the transport of tar sands, a form of toxic, thick, heavy oil that is associated with higher incidence of pipeline spills and can be nearly impossible to clean up. The pipeline stretches through Casco along the Crooked River, passing by Pleasant Lake and Parker Pond as it heads for Sebago Lake.
The resolution stated concerns about the environmental and public health hazards of tar sands in the context of a town and region heavily dependent on a clean environment for recreation, tourism, and the economy at large. Concerns about threats to water quality also motivated the resolution.
“I’ve been guiding on the Crooked River and other pristine Maine waters for years,” said Brooke Hiddell a Registered Maine Guide and Casco resident. “Maine’s large outdoor recreation industry depends on clean, healthy waters for salmon, brook trout, and other speciesâand an increased risk of an oil spill into these waters from tar sands oil being forced through Maine’s aging pipeline would be devastating to the entire Sebago Lake watershed.”
The resolution was submitted by Casco residents who have become increasingly concerned about the threat of tar sands oil to the local environment and economy. Casco residents collected 340 signatures at the polls in November to put the resolution on the ballot for today’s special town meeting.
“Given how vital a clean environment and especially clean water are to our citizens and our economy, it’s not surprising this resolution had such strong support,” said Grant Plummer, owner of Fieldstone Builders Inc. in Casco and Casco select board member. “I think a lot of people reached the conclusion that putting tar sands through this pipe would provide only risksâto our people and economyâand no real benefit to the town or the state.”
The resolution calls upon elected leaders to help ensure any tar sands pipeline proposal gets a complete environmental impact review, something that can be required by the U.S. State Department for cross-border pipelines. More than 50 towns along the pipeline route in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are considering similar resolutions.
“We congratulate the town and citizens of Casco on passing this important resolution,” said Todd Martin, Outreach Coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Once you learn about tar sands and pipelines, it’s not hard to see that it would be a bad deal for Maine. We expect Casco will be the first of many towns along the pipeline to speak out.”