by Whit Richardson, staff writer
WATERFORD, Maine â The residents of Waterford have approved a resolution stating their opposition to any proposal by Portland Pipe Line Corp. to transport oil sand crude in its existing pipeline, which flows through the community.
Portland Pipe Line Corp., which is owned by Montreal Pipeline Ltd., has no plans on the table to reverse the flow of the Portland-Montreal pipeline to carry oil sand crude from Montreal to Portland Harbor. However, Larry Wilson, the company’s CEO, recently told the Bangor Daily News that the company is exploring it as an option.
The pipeline has carried crude oil from Portland to Montreal since 1941, but a reversal to carry oil sand crude â which opponents refer to as tar sands â from Montreal to Portland would better reflect changes in supply and global demand in the markets.
The community’s residents passed the resolution by a raised-hand vote of 56-34 at the annual town meeting Saturday, according to Paula Easton, a resident and member of the group Clean Water for Waterford.
Easton said she and other supporters of the resolution oppose the idea of sending oil sand crude through the pipeline because of what they fear would be harmful consequences to the Crooked River watershed, which feeds into Sebago Lake, if the pipeline were to ever rupture.
The resolution calls for any proposal by the company to trigger a federal environmental review process, an effort recently supported by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, in a letter to the Obama administration.
“We feel that such transport is of no benefit to Waterford and entails unacceptable risk to our river, our public health and safety, property values, recreation resources, water quality, and the pristine natural resources upon which our community depends,” the resolution reads.
Waterford is the third community to pass such a resolution. Casco was the first, passing one in mid-January. Bethel passed a resolution in February. The 236-mile Portland-Montreal pipeline flows through all three communities.
Supporters of a potential reversal and those opposed both were given an opportunity to speak during the town meeting.
“After hearing from experts on both sides, and after more than an hour of discussion, the people of Waterford have spoken,” Waterford Select Board Chairman Randy Lessard said in a statement. “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 Waterford residents.”
In a statement sent to the Bangor Daily News, Wilson said the Portland Pipe Line Corp. was pleased to be given the opportunity to participate in Waterford’s town meeting and looks forward to returning to discuss the issue in more depth.
“Many of our wonderful neighbors in Waterford strongly supported our request to table the matter to provide a future opportunity to communicate the facts and correct the inaccuracies and misstatements associated with this non-binding resolution,” Wilson said. “It will be PMPL’s pleasure to return to Waterford and provide our neighbors with detailed, scientifically supported factual information. We are so appreciative of the significant and genuine support expressed to our outstanding employees and company by so many Waterford residents.”
The Natural Resources Council of Maine, which opposes any attempts to carry oil sands through the pipeline, says more than 50 communities in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are considering similar resolutions.