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Tar Sands Pipeline Project “Slinking Forward” Towards Maine

PHOTO: Apparent plans to pump abrasive tar sands oil in an aging pipeline across three New England states are sparking opposition from critics who fear water and wildlife will be imperiled. Photo courtesy NWF.

PHOTO: Apparent plans to pump abrasive tar sands oil in an aging pipeline across three New England states are sparking opposition from critics who fear water and wildlife will be imperiled. Photo courtesy NWF.


December 7, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine – Two days of training for cleaning up tar sands oil spills were held this week (Tuesday and Wednesday) in Portland with the Maine DEP, the EPA and the Coast Guard all involved.

Still, no one has said publicly that crude from Western Canada will be sent down a 236-mile pipeline across New England.

The Portland Pipe Line Corporation says it has no current plans to reverse the flow on the Portland to Montreal leg and send down tar sands oil, but the cleanup training makes environmentalist Dylan Voorhees skeptical.

"And so what's fascinating about this – which of course is a commendable preparedness action – is that it's happening in the midst of denials."

Voorhees is with the Natural Resources Council of Maine. He says the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge last Friday applied to reverse the flow of its pipeline to Montreal to bring oil west to east, further evidence, he says, that the project is "slinking forward" while avoiding environmental reviews.

Wildlife biologist Eric Orff warns that the abrasive form of crude would threaten the 62-year-old pipeline itself, and that spills could contaminate the water in Maine or the other New England states it passes through.

"So you're looking at additional – we think – stresses on the pipeline, a pipeline that's already 62 years old and certainly has not been designed, never was designed for this purpose."

Dylan Voorhees suspects deliberate evasiveness.

"There hasn't been a full environmental review of what this could mean to the New England states, and we're in danger of this sort of slinking forward in bits and pieces without any environmental review."

A new National Wildlife Federation report says spills, like one in Michigan two years ago, could contaminate water and harm wildlife. The report comes shortly before the Obama administration is expected to make a decision on the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the middle of the country.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME