Urge Snowe and Collins to Reject Keystone Fast-track Bill
NRCM, Sierra Club Maine, NRDC, NWF
Conservation groups gathered in Portland today to express concerns about efforts to pipe tar sands crude oil from Canada into the United States, citing proposals to build a massive new pipeline across America’s heartland and the possibility that tar sands could flow from Canada through Maine for export.
A Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline was rejected by President Obama earlier this year following protests by thousands of citizens at the White House last fall, including more than 100 Mainers. Proposed legislation introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate would have Congress approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline without finishing the environmental review process and before a route for the pipeline is even finalized.
“Tar sands oil is not part of the energy solution we need,” said Glen Brand, Director of Sierra Club Maine. “We call on Maine’s congressional delegation to not support any efforts that would force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline before a final route is established and the health and safety review is completed.”
“Everyone knows we are addicted to oil,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Tar sands oil is very different from conventional oilâit’s much, much worse. It poses higher safety risks to people and even greater impacts to the environment and climate. It is like mountain-top coal mining for oil.”
“Fast tracking the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is playing politics when the safety of our nation’s communities, farmland, and water are at stake,” said Danielle Droitsch, Director of Canada Projects at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Congress is not a permitting agency and is not set up to handle complex reviews for environmental health and safety, especially for a tar sands pipeline that is more likely to rupture and for tar sands oil, which is more difficult and expensive to clean up.”
The groups noted that Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have so far not endorsed any of these irresponsible bills, and asked that they oppose any effort to pass them as free-standing legislation or attached to any other bills (such as the transportation and payroll tax extension bills).
“Maine people ought to be especially wary of a rush to judgment on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline because they may find themselves facing a similar proposal to pipe tar sands oil from Canada across our state,” said Voorhees. “Maine people deserve to learn more about the serious health and safety threats that are unique to tar sands pipelines.”
Plans to ship tar sands crude to Maine could be under way. In 2011, Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company, applied to the Canadian Energy Board for fast-track permission to reverse the flow for a portion of its oil pipeline from Ontario to Montreal. This move is viewed as a revitalization of a broader plan first initiated in 2008, when Enbridge proposed to reverse the flow of a pipeline across Ontario to Montreal and then down to Portland, Maine to bring tar sands crude to U.S. and global markets.
The companies that own the Canadian and Maine portions of the line acknowledge that the whole reversal is under discussion, although they are seeking a permit for a portion of the line from Ontario to Montreal until market conditions improve.
“The existing oil pipeline from Portland to Montreal passes right alongside Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply to the entire Portland area,” said Brand. “Tar sand oil is more corrosive and acidic than conventional oil, making pipes more susceptible to corrosion and bringing a higher risk of spills. That’s a risk we need to understand better before any reversal of oil is considered.”
“Like farmers in Nebraska, Mainers would not want legislators from other states trying to short circuit the environmental and safety reviews now required by federal and state law,” said Voorhees.
“Tar sands oil is among the most harmful and destructive sources of energy around today,” said Droitsch. “It causes very high amounts of global warming pollution, causes massive destruction to Canadian ecosystems on a large scale, and brings increased risks of devastating oil spills wherever it is piped across the landscape.”
In addition to calling on Maine’s Senators to oppose fast-tracking the Keystone pipeline and raising concerns about tar sands in Maine, the groups identified more effective and sustainable ways to reduce our dependence on oil of any kind, for example the higher fuel-economy standards recently approved for cars and trucks that will ultimately reduce U.S. oil consumption by over 800 million barrels/year (equivalent to half the amount we import from OPEC states).