by Noah Hurowitz
PORTLAND â Despite freezing temperatures, hundreds of people turned out Saturday to oppose the piping of “tar sands” crude oil through Maine.
Organizers called the rally the largest anti-tar sands protest in the Northeast. They said it demonstrated widespread opposition to possible plans by oil companies to run tar sands oil through a 236-mile segment of pipeline running from Montreal to South Portland.
Tar sands oil, more properly known as bituminous sands, is a type of crude oil deposit â a sludgy mixture of sand, clay and petroleum. The material is more difficult to transport than conventional crude oil and critics say its acidity makes it more likely to eat through pipes and cause spills.
Protesters gathered in Monument Square Saturday morning before marching to the Maine State Pier for speeches of support from organizers and local politicians, including U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Portland Mayor Michael Brennan.
Brennan, who spoke earlier this week in support of a city ordinance that would ban the piping of tar sands oil through Portland, said he would like to see the city go even further and not buy any products made from tar sands.
“The future is in renewable energy,” Brennan said. “The future is not in tar sands.”
Many of the protesters came from outside the state to rally in solidarity with Maine activists. Marla Malcum of the environmental organization 350 said the group brought more than 100 people.
“We know this is a regional fight, a national fight, and we know that when we’re fighting down in Massachusetts, people from Maine will come down and help us there,” she said.
Jean Knight, 73, also travelled to the rally Saturday, driving more than five hours from Burlington, Vt.
“Fossil fuels and tar sands in particular are killing the earth,” Knight said. “I just wanted to add my body here.”