Congresswoman Pingree Petitions Feds For Environmental Review on Tar Sands Pipeline

The January 26 Tar Sands Protesters Coming up Congress Street, Portland. About 1,500 Attended.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,304)

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree  (D), has written a three page letter to the Obama Administration asking that the owners of the Portland Pipeline not be allowed to pump tar sands oil from Canada through Maine without applying for a new permit and undergoing environmental review.  The letter to the Secretary of State was signed by 17 other Senators and Representatives; Maine Senators Collins and King did not sign-on to the letter.

The letter to Secretary Kerry fulfilled a promise the Congresswoman made to about 1,500 people who attended a tar sands rally on January 26, 2013 .  She addressed the cheering crowd on the Maine State Pier expressing concern about the environmental impact for Maine (Vermont and New Hampshire) of permitting the thick oil to be pumped through a 236-mile pieline to Portland Harbor.  From there it would be transported to Gulf of Mexico refineries or overseas.  Pingree reasoned that this reversal of the use of the 6l year old pipeline constitutes a change of use and therefore requires a new Presidential Permit.  Oil executives disagree.

“Many of our constituents have significant concerns about the environmental and economic impacts a tar sands pipeline could pose to the region.  They question whether the transportation of Canadian tar sands through our communities for export would be in the United States national interest.  Oil tankers carrying tar sands could pose a real risk to wildlife and fisheries in Casco Bay and throughout the Gulf of Maine and Atlantic,” Pingree wrote. She emphasized that the effort to require a new environmental review is not a criticism of the company that operates the Portland Pipeline.  “The company has a good safety record, but this would be a new use for the pipeline and needs proper environmental review.”

The letter continued:  “Despite the unique hazards of transporting tar sands oil, federal regujlatory entities have yet to impose special safety requirements for tar sands pipelines and companies are using pipelines designed for conventional crude to move diluted bitumen.  Not only is diluted ibtumen more likely to spill, it is even more difficult to clean up when spills occur.  Although some of the dilents evaporate, a large portion of the mixture sinks in water, confounding oil spill responses that have been designed to deal with floating conventional oil.  Simply put, traditional cenaup mechanisms do not work for tar sands and because the makeup of the spill is considered proprietary, regulatory entitles may not be prepared to protect public health when a spill ocurs.

The State Department review process should also account for impacts related to climate change, including any incrrease in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the transition to a new use for this pipeline. ….The State Department has the responsibility to ensure transnational pipeline projects serve the national interest and prevent projects that will put our communities and the environment at rick of destructive spills.  A project that places American communities at risk without any tangible benefits is certainly not in the interest of our constituents.”  The letter was signed by all of the US Representatives from Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, through which tar sands oil could flow.

“Toxic, spill-prone tar sands doesn’t belong in Maine where it would threaten drinking water and our economy,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clearn Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.  “We applaud Congresswoman Pingree for listening to diverse constituents who are worried about tar sands coming through Maine without a review of the environmental risks.  It is unfortunate that Senator Collins and King did not sign onto Congresswoman Pingree’s letter,” said Voorhees.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The Natural Resources Council of Maine has announced that the South Portland Cty Councill will begin the process of considering the issue of the  tar sands pipeline.  SoPo is central to this fight, since that’s where the pipeline’s tanker terminal is located. The public is invited to attend a workshop on Monday, March 11, at 6:30 pm at the South Portland Community Center at 21 Nelson Road.  Dylan Voorhees, NRCM’s Clean Energy Director will be speaking about the risks of tar sands.  Representatives from the pipeline company will also be there to make their presentation. To RSVP and for more information,  pls. email tmartin@nrcm.org

For more background information on the Portland rally, please visit a post dated January 26,  2013 herein.