Maine citizens are turning out across Maine this week to oppose an emerging plan to pump dirty tar sands oil from Ontario, Canada through a pipeline in the beautiful lakes region in southwestern Maine to Portland, Maine where it would be shipped out by supertankers. The four rallies coincide with the two year anniversary of a devastating tar sands pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River, Michigan. That spill by the Canadian oil giant Enbridge contaminated nearly 40 miles of the river with 1.2 million gallons of toxic tar sands oil. It was the worst inland pipeline spill in U.S. history.
“The same company responsible for the worst tar sands pipeline spill in history is now trying to bring tar sands to our region. Bringing tar sands through this pipeline would bring Maine enormous risk and no reward,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The only beneficiaries would be big oil companies that want new ways to make money by exporting tar sands to foreign markets.”
Maine’s 60-year-old pipeline was never designed to carry the more toxic and polluting tar sands oil, which has a 300% greater rate of leaks than regular oil. Worse yet, there is no proven way to clean up toxic tar sands oil if a spill occurs. Clean-up of the Kalamazoo River has cost $750 million and is still ongoing two years later, in part because the toxic tar sands sank into the river bottom. The emerging northeastern pipeline plan by Enbridge and its allies, would send tar sands across the Androscoggin, Crooked, and Presumpscot rivers and alongside Sebago Lake — the water supply for 1 in 7 Mainers – as well as Pleasant Lake and Panther Pond.
“I’m a partner in a business that, along with many others here, is utterly dependent on the quality of natural resources unique to our region,” said Seabury Lyon of Bethel. “The 60 year old pipeline travels along the Androscoggin for over 13 miles, crossing it twice. An oil spill would directly jeopardize area businesses and the very fragile economy of our entire region.”
“I’ve been guiding on the Crooked River and other pristine Maine waters for years,” said registered Maine fishing guide Brooke Hidell. “Maine’s large outdoor recreation industry depends on clean, healthy waters for salmon, brook trout, and other species—and an increased risk of an oil spill into these waters from tar sands being forced through Maine’s aging pipeline infrastructure would be devastating to the entire Sebago Lake watershed.”
“Tar sands is not like conventional oil that is currently being pumped through our backyards,” said Casco resident Nadia Hermos. “I’m concerned that Sebago Lake, which is the heart of our economy, could be filled with toxic tar sands.”
“As a mother of two living in Windham, I often take my children to the Black Brook Nature Preserve in Windham,” said Helyne May. “The existing pipeline runs underneath the hiking trails and ponds at the preserve. A tar sands oil spill here would be ruinous for the ecology of this preserve, and for the families like mine who enjoy the recreational opportunities that it provides.”
The tar sands spill into the Kalamazoo River was on July 25, 2010. An independent government report released this month found Enbridge failed for years to address known problems with the pipeline and was completely unprepared for the spill. The report also cited lax regulations.
Rally participants read a statement from one of the citizens impacted by the Kalamazoo River spill. Marshall, MI resident Susan Connolly wrote: “Our community was negatively impacted and the river will never fully recover, but we can educate the country about the dangers of tar sands and the disastrous impact this type of spill can have so the same thing doesn’t happen in your back yard.”
“Tar sands would put Maine’s clean waters, fisheries, tourism and many beautiful places at risk,” said Voorhees. “An increasing number of Maine people are very worried about this emerging plan—and not at all appeased by the pipeline companies hollow denials.”
“When corrosive, toxic tar sands spill, the chemicals needed to dilute the tar sands separate out and the tar sinks,” said Voorhees. “On top of that, tar sands are piped at higher pressures, making the volume of a spill potentially much larger, as was the case in Michigan.”
For a map of where the pipeline crosses through Maine communities, click here.