SoPo Residents Take Steps to Stop Tar Sands Project

Nearly 1,500 people marched the streets of Portland on January 26, speaking out against the Portland-Montreal Pipeline.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,434)

South Portland residents announced this morning a new initiative for the November ballot to keep the city safe from tar sands oil. The Waterfront Protection Ordinance would change the city’s zoning ordinance to block ExxonMobil, the majority owner of the Portland-Montreal pipellne, from building two 70-foot smokestacks next to Bug Light and other oil infrastructure needed to export tar sands out of Casco Bay.  ExxonMobil, the majority owner of the Portland-Montreal pipeline has proposed to build these smokestacks on the pier in order to export tar sands.  The announcement came at a news conference outside of South Portland City Hall according to a press release issued today.

“We ask all citizens of South Portland to stand with us to protect our community.  Please sign the petition to qualify this citizen’s initiative for the ballot and vote YES on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance in November,” said Rob Sellin, co-chair Concerned Citizens of South Portland, a group of residents who are opposed to tar sands coming through South Portland.  “We will not let Big Oil drag us backwards.  South Portland is taking a stand against tar sands.”

The campaign comes as the Portland Pipeline Corp, is “aggressively looking at every opportunity,” according to CEO Larry Wilson, to pump oil from Montreal to south Portland and as the Canadian National Energy Board considers an application from Canadian oil giant Enbridge that would complete the connection of pipelines able to carry tar sands from Alberta to Montreal.

“In recent years, South Protland has had a strong track record of trying to achieve economic growth in environmentally sensitive ways,” said Dave Owen, a South Portland resident, environmental law professor at Maine Law School and father of two young childrlen.  “To become the East Coast’s tar sands port perhaps the continent’s tar sands port – would be a huge step backward, a move toward the dirtiest forms of industrial development.  And that’s a step I hope the city and its citizens will do everything in their power to avoid by passing the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.”

South Portland’s Comprehensive Plan, approved in October 2010, was developed with  briad input and support from residents across the city.  The plan envisions transtioning the Shipyard area, where Exxon’s stacks would be built, to a mixed-use area that protects traditional marine uses while accommodating recreational business and residential uses.

The proposed towering smokestacks, the tallest in South Portland, would be built between Bug Light and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouses.  The smokestacks would be a new source of local air pollution and they would damage the beauty of the South Portland coastline, since they would be highly visible from Bug Light, Willard Beach, SMCC and elsewhere.

The ciizens need to submit 950 qualified signatures to put the Waterfront Protection Ordinance on the November ballot.

This Saturday and Sunday, June 8th and 9th, the Concerned Citizens of South Portland are having a weekend of action on tar sands.   Meet at the entrance to Willard Beach in South Portland.  Volunteer shifts are from 9 am  – 12 noon; noon – 3 pm, or 3 pm – 6 pm.  Please contact Todd at 207 – 430-0115 or tmartin@nrcm.org if you can volunteer this weekend or anytime.