With the Keystone XL pipeline on hold (for now) and the fight for the 'Northern Gateway' tar sands pipeline in full swing in western Canada, producers of tar sands oil and pipeline operators continue to look for ways to get Alberta's oil resources. Environmentalists and clean water advocates in Maine are now worried that an existing pipeline in their state, famed for its picturesque rocky coast and pristine drinking water, could now be under consideration to carry tar sands oil from Ontario to Portland harbor.
WCSH, the NBC affiliate in Maine, reports:
Environmental groups in Maine are keeping a close eye on any potential plans to transport tar sands oil via a pipeline that runs from South Portland to Canada.
Since 1941, Portland Pipeline has transported billions of barrels of crude oil from it's tank farms in South Portland to Montreal. At a news conference Thursday, members of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said with President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, canadian oil companies are looking for other ways to export tar sands oil. They say Canadian oil company Enbridge is exploring ways to reverse the flow of oil from Ontario through Montreal to South Portland. They say tar sands oil can't be transported safely.
And the Portland Press Herald reports today:
... Groups such as the Natural Resources Council of Maine have grown increasingly concerned because they believe that Portland Pipe Line Corp. wants to partner with a Canadian firm to bring tar sands oil to Portland Harbor.
Portland Pipe Line now unloads oil from ships at its terminal in South Portland and pumps the oil north to Montreal through one of two pipelines it owns.
[Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine] claims Portland Pipe Line wants to use its unused pipeline to import tar sands oil from Canada to Portland, where ships would load it and carry it to refineries along the East Coast. A southbound pipeline would pass next to Sebago Lake, the source of drinking water for thousands of people in southern Maine.
"We're talking about the world's dirtiest source of oil," Glen Brand, director of Sierra Club Maine, told The Portland Daily Sun.
Tar sands crude is thicker, more corrosive and abrasive on pipes and requires higher pressure for transporting through pipelines, Brand said. For those reasons, environmentalists are worried about leaks along the pipeline route.
"That could pose a threat to Sebago Lake because the pipeline goes right along it," said Brand, adding that the lake supplies drinking water more than 15 percent of Mainers.
"That's why we want to start bringing public attention to it," he said.