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New Englanders Rally to Oppose Tar Sands Pipeline

A tar sands pipeline that burst in 2010 contaminated Michigan's Kalamazoon River. Protests are being held around New England against using a 62-year-old pipeline to move Canadian tar sands to Portland for export. Photo courtesy NWF
A tar sands pipeline that burst in 2010 contaminated Michigan's Kalamazoon River. Protests are being held around New England against using a 62-year-old pipeline to move Canadian tar sands to Portland for export. Photo courtesy NWF
January 28, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine - Defying cold weather, late week demonstrations, pickets at gas stations, and a march and rally in Portland Saturday capped off a week of actions from Canada to Maine aimed at heading off presumed plans to pump corrosive Canadian tar sands oil across New England and into ships for export.

The series of protests over what some see as a threat to water and wildlife in the region culminated at Portland's Maine State Pier on Saturday, where Burlington, Vermont-based activist Dave Stember says, the chilly weather was no deterrent.

"The beginning of the rally was 12 degrees. It was amazing," he said. "The police said we had fifteen hundred people; it's hard to know what the numbers were but we had way more than we expected."

The Canadian company, Enbridge, says it has no plans to reverse the flow of the existing pipeline that carries oil from Portland to Montreal. But the protestors say they see signs of the company's intention to do just that and will continue to fight a move they say would subject New England to risk with no reward.

Dave Stember asks why New England should help Canada export tar sands oil from its Western provinces.

"The conduit goes through our region. We take all of the risks, we get none of the value," he declared, adding, "And the only real argument you could make for it is that it'd be good for the profits for the oil company."

Carol Oldham of the National Wildlife Federation says Exxon Mobil gas stations around New England were picketed late last week.

"Exxon is actually the majority owner of the Portland-to-Montreal pipeline company," she said. "So they're really the folks that are driving this whole process of bringing tar sands into the Northeast, and we wanted to hold them responsible."

Demonstrators called on elected officials and the U.S. State Department to require a new Presidential Permit application and full environmental review.


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME