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Mainers Join to Petition U.S. on Tar Sands Regs

PHOTO: The Portland-Maine pipeline, shown here crossing Coos County, NH, is cited in a petition calling on the federal government to issue stricter regulations for transporting tar sands oil from Western Canada across New England and the Midwest.

PHOTO: The Portland-Maine pipeline, shown here crossing Coos County, NH, is cited in a petition calling on the federal government to issue stricter regulations for transporting tar sands oil from Western Canada across New England and the Midwest.


March 27, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine - More than 55 groups and individuals are petitioning the federal government to halt plans to pump corrosive tar-sands oil from Canada to American ports for export.

Current regulations are inadequate, they say, and raise the risk of catastrophic spills. Petitioners are out to stop both the Keystone XL pipeline and a plan to use an existing, aging pipeline to send tar-sands oil across New England to Portland.

The corrosive tar sands, which Canadian companies want to sell and ship overseas, would be heated and under pressure.

"Our concern is that there's much at risk for the state of Maine from not having strict pipeline safety regulations," said former Maine Marine Commissioner George LaPointe. "Concerns for the environment overall, concerns for drinking water, concerns for human health and concerns for environmental health."

Portland Montreal Pipeline Co., which is majority owned by Exxon Mobil, has said it welcomes the opportunity to use its oil pipeline to Portland Harbor.

The petition, filed Tuesday with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, reflects a growing movement, said Jim Murphy. lead counsel for the National Wildlife Federation.

"I think both this petition and the great number of organizations and individuals who signed on - plus the effort in towns - shows that there's a growing awareness and a growing concern about tar-sands development and tar-sands fuel use, and tar-sands transportation," Murphy said.

Art Greene, spokesman for the sport-fishing group Trout Unlimited, said tar-sands oil would cross 79 New Hampshire rivers and streams as it flows through a 62-year-old pipeline not intended to transport the highly corrosive material.

"A tar-sands spill would be nearly impossible to clean up and would severely disrupt the natural environment," he said. "It's very difficult to detect, as well."

From 2007 through 2010, the petitioners say, tar-sands oil pipelines in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota spilled almost three times more crude oil per pipeline mile than the U.S. national average.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME