By Kate Irish Collins
KeepMEcurrent.com news stoty
SOUTH PORTLAND – A key vote taken by Canada’s National Energy Board last week has locals determined to prevent tar-sands oil from flowing into South Portland concerned, even though the vote was expected and the owner of the local pipeline has said it has no current plans to bring in the Canadian crude.
Tar sands, also referred to as oil sands, is a combination of clay, sand, water and bitumen, which is a heavy, black and viscous type of oil. It can be piped, similar to the oil from more conventional oil wells, but must be diluted with lighter hydrocarbons to make it transportable.
The largest tar sands deposits in the world are found in Canada and Venezuela, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, and that’s why the vote last week by the Canadian board to approve the final link between the Alberta and Montreal tar sands pipelines is upsetting to those who want to keep the product out of New England.
Crystal Goodrich, spokeswoman for the group Protect South Portland, which formed to urge the city to outlaw the flow of tar sands into the region, said the vote by the Canadian board on March 6 puts tar sands “on New England’s doorstep and tar sands (could be) transported through the Portland Montreal Pipeline to Maine for export from the U.S. to the global energy market.”
However, Jim Merrill, spokesman for the Portland Pipe Line Corp. in South Portland, countered that in accordance with the company’s previously stated position, “there is no project to reverse the flow of its pipeline proposed, pending or imminent” and that stance is “unaffected by announcements regarding other Canadian pipelines.”
But Goodrich said it’s “no coincidence that at the same time this (vote) was happening in Canada, residents of South Portland began hearing again from Big Oil.”
She said, “full-page advertisements pushing tar-sands oil have been turning up in local newspapers and flyers in the same vein (are arriving) in residents’ mailboxes.”
And Goodrich said, what’s worse is that those advertisements regarding tar sands are “simply not true. Tar sands would be brought through South Portland to be exported out of Maine. There is no benefit of any kind, for fuel or cost savings, for us here in Maine. South Portlanders would take all of the risk while the oil (companies) would be making millions in profits.”
Mary Jane Ferrier, another member of Protect South Portland, added, “Trying to deceive us with their slick ads does not change the facts. Tar sands are too dangerous and not good for our state, our waterways, the Casco Bay economy or the people of South Portland.”
Ferrier also said, “Our City Council has recognized tar sands is bad for South Portland, and that’s why they have appointed a committee to draft an ordinance to keep tar sands out of our city. We need this ordinance now more than ever.”
Jeff Edelstein, the facilitator working with South Portland’s draft ordinance committee, said he could not comment on whether the vote by the Canadian Energy Board’s voted would have any impact on the work being done to create a new set of ordinances regarding tar sands.
In addition, he said that the agendas for three consecutive meetings being held next week “were still being determined.” The draft ordinance committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday-Thursday, March 18-20, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
In a press release issued last week, the Natural Resources Council of Maine reiterated many of the concerns expressed by the Protect South Portland group.
The resources council said the vote by the Canadian board “for the first time directly connecting Alberta’s tar sands to Montreal . . . means that tar sands oil – or diluted bitumen – can come to Montreal, where the Portland-Montreal Pipeline is then an obvious route for the oil industry to . . . send tar sands to the world market.”
“(The vote on March 6) brings toxic tar-sands oil right to New England’s doorstep and one step away from flowing south through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine,” said Dylan Voorhees, the clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This decision should put Maine on high alert for the threat of tar sands transportation through our state.”
According to the resources council, the Portland-Montreal pipeline passes along and under the Androscoggin River, crosses the Crooked River, passes alongside Sebago Lake and under a cove of the lake itself and ends on Casco Bay in South Portland.
Currently the city of South Portland has a moratorium on tar sands export infrastructure, and many towns and cities to the west have also passed resolutions “expressing serious concern with or downright opposition to tar-sands oil flowing through the pipeline in their towns,” the resources council’s press release said.
“We’ve been expecting news (of the Canadian board’s vote), and it only redoubles our commitment to keep tar sands out of Maine by preventing it from being shipped out of Casco Bay” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “For our coast, our water, and our climate, we simply will not allow tar sands to flow through our beautiful state.”
And Voorhees added, “After (the) disappointing news from Canada, Maine needs to send a strong, clear message that we will not be next.”
A CLOSER LOOK
The South Portland committee attempting to draft an ordinance regulating tar sands within city limits will meet on three consecutive evenings next week.
All meetings begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The upcoming meetings are scheduled for Tuesday-Thursday, March 18-20. Another meeting is also set for March 27.week.
All meetings begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The upcoming meetings are scheduled for Tuesday-Thursday, March 18-20. Another meeting is also set for March 27.