Fifty people turned out at Davis Park in Bethel last Wednesday to protest what they say are plans by two pipeline companies to pump tar sands crude oil through this area to Casco Bay in Portland. They believe the Portland Montreal Pipeline Co., which currently pumps oil from Casco Bay terminals to Montreal, will eventually reverse the flow of one of its pipelines to accommodate tar sands oil coming from western Canada through pipelines owned by the Enbridge company.
The protestors question the safety of the 62-year-old line carrying such crude, which they said is more abrasive and more likely to cause leaks in pipelines.
The Portland line travels through Waterford, Albany, Bethel and Gilead, and crosses the Androscoggin River.
The group also cited a large tar sands pipeline spill near the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, which took place two years ago to the day of their protest.
The protestors, many dressed in black to resemble the color of crude oil, gather on the grass next to the Androscoggin River to mimic an “oil spill.”
Earlier this week, protestors at the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in Burlington, Vt., were shot by police with pepper balls and stingball pellets as they blocked a driveway in a demonstration against tar sands, according to published reports. Several people at the Bethel event said they had planned to go to Burlington. The pipeline companies, however, deny any plans to pump tar sands through northern New England.
On Tuesday, the Burlington Free Press reported that Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont said of the protesters, “I think we’re in harmony with their agenda.” Asked if he thought tar sands might flow through his state, Shumlin said, “I can’t say anything for sure, because I don’t run Enbridge. They have told me, and they’ve told Premier Charest, and they’ve told everybody that I know from other states, that they are not considering any longer using that pipeline for tar sands oil. That’s great news for Vermont.”