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South Portland opposes tar sands exports from its port

Don't Tar Our Port

There are ongoing concerns that the flow of the 600,000 barrels-per-day Portland Montreal Pipeline could be reversed to facilitate the export of tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the United States and beyond. The 378-kilometre underground pipeline runs from South Portland, Maine, through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, under the St. Lawrence River, to Montreal.

In November, South Portland passed a six-month moratorium against any new structures that could transfer oil from a pipeline to oil tankers in their port. CBC reports, “The council may extend the moratorium for a further six months to allow a committee to draft an ordinance for a permanent ban. …It’s expected to be ready sometime in the fall.”

The city of South Portland is situated on Portland Harbor and overlooks the skyline of Portland and Casco Bay.

Crystal Gooderich, a spokeswoman for local citizen’s group Protect South Portland, says, “If we were to have a disaster in Casco Bay, or in our drinking supply in Sebago Lake, it would be something we’d never recover from fully.” The pipeline passes near Sebago Lake (the primary water supply for the Greater Portland Region and about 15% of Maine’s population), as well as the Androscoggin River, which is already threatened by the waste from paper mills.

The CBC article further explains, “(South Portland) has provided imported oil by pipeline to Canada since 1941… The oil moves north from Maine through New Hampshire to Montreal via the Portland Montreal Pipeline, a subsidiary of the Canadian parent company that is owned by three companies involved in the Alberta oilsands: Shell, Suncor and Imperial Oil. In 2008, the company applied for a permit to reverse the flow of the pipeline to bring Canadian oil to the U.S. east coast. The plan was scrapped because of the recession and there is no current project on the books. But the company president Larry Wilson has been quoted as saying he is looking for every opportunity to revive the plan.”

Predictably, “The moratorium and the possibility of a precedent-setting local law have sparked a sharp response from the oil industry, which is running a series of pro-oilsands ads in local papers. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents more than 500 oil and gas companies, called the current moratorium ‘ill-advised, unnecessary and unsupported’.”

The news report also notes, “South Portland is being closely watched by people on the U.S. West Coast. Local environmental groups in six California communities are also trying to use local laws to prevent oilsands and Bakken crude from coming to their ports by train.”

Last March, the Associated Press reported that many towns in Vermont are opposed to the Portland to Montreal pipeline being reversed. “The talk about tar sands oil galvanized 29 Vermont towns to hold nonbinding votes against reversing the pipeline… None of the communities that considered the issue voted in favour of the pipeline… The votes of concern led the Canadian consulate in Boston to send letters to 23 Vermont towns and to attend meetings in five Maine communities, saying Alberta oil posed no greater threat of a spill or to the environment than traditional crude oil.”

And last May, CBC reported, “The city of Portland, Maine, passed a resolution (on Monday May 20) calling on the U.S. government to conduct an environmental review of Portland-to-Montreal pipeline before it is allowed to reverse its flow and potentially bring oilsands oil to a terminal on the Atlantic coast. …Monday’s resolution is one in a string of similar resolutions passed in towns across Maine. (Casco, Bethel and Waterford have all approved similar resolutions.)”

Additionally, “18 members of Congress … have asked Secretary of State John Kerry to require a comprehensive environmental impact statement should the Portland Pipeline Corp. seek to reverse the flow.”

For more about Protect South Portland, please see their Facebook page here.