Battle wages on to keep tar sands out

 

NW dd11 PHOTO can we stop tar sands

In 2012, Casco resident Peg Dilley prepares for a tar sands protest at Raymond Public Boat Launch on Big Sebago Lake. Her concerns about tar sands being transported in Maine have increased considerably, after hearing that on Friday the National Energy Board of Canada approved both the reversal of the flow and an increased flow of crude oil, including tar sands, for the pipeline that spans between Ontario and Quebec. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Casco resident Peg Dilley has a pipeline running through her backyard.

The crude oil pipeline is buried underground about 850 feet from her property, she said.

For years, she has been concerned about the aged pipeline being used for the transportation of tar sands oil by its owner, the Portland Pipe Line Company. Her concerns have kept her busy: Attending rallies and seminars, sharing information with her town’s residents, and writing letters to influential politicians.

However, her worries escalated when, on Friday, the National Energy Board of Canada (NEBC) gave its nod of approval for the company Enbridge to reverse the flow of oil. The section of pipeline affected by the board’s decision is referred to as “Line Nine,” which runs between Sarnia, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec.

According to press releases from both the Natural Resource Council of Maine (NRCM) and Sen. Angus King’s Washington, D.C., office, not only did NEBC okay the reversal, but it also approved an increase in the flow of crude oil, including tar sands oil, also known as diluted bitumen.

“The next step is Maine,” Dilley said.

“Yes, it is personal, because of what is going on in my town and what is going on in my state,” she said.

Quick to respond to Friday’s development, U.S. Sen. King (I-Maine) sought the ear of Secretary of State John Kerry and requested an Environmental Impact Study (EIS).

“My constituents have consistently expressed concern at the lack of any environmental review of a project of this nature, given that there appears to be no substantive state review process that would be triggered,” Sen. King wrote. “Yet, this pipeline runs through very important — and ecologically fragile — parts of Maine, including Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for the greater Portland area,” he said.

“Piping diluted bitumen southward would be a significant alteration in function for this decades-old line and it would present unknown environmental risk,” he said.

“The people of northern New England deserve a full assessment of that risk and the likelihood of a spill if the pipeline is reversed to convey tar sands oil to South Portland,” he said in Friday’s press release.

Knowing that King has been doing what he can to protect the Lake Region from a potential disaster should a spill occur, Dilley turned her attention to Rep. Susan Collins.

She crafted a few letters to Collins, and sent those via e-mail. When the first one did not illicit the response she had hoped for, Dilley wrote a second e-mail.

Collins responded, thanking Dilley for taking the time to write and express her concerns.

“According to the Portland Pipe Line Corporation and Montreal Pipe Line Limited, which jointly operate the pipeline, there is ‘no active project associated with moving Western Canadian crudes in an easterly flow direction through (their) pipelines,’” Collins wrote.

“Concerns have been raised, however, that an approval by Canada’s National Energy Board earlier this summer, to allow for the reversal of one of Enbridge’s pipelines in Canada, may signal plans for reviving the Trailbreaker project,” Collin said.

“I have noted your concern about possible environmental impacts. Should a reversal of flows be proposed, I will certainly keep your concerns in mind,” she said.

“I share your interest in protecting our waters so that we may ensure a higher quality of life for ourselves and future generations. I am committed to advancing our nation’s environmental stewardship and have taken many actions to protect our nation’s lakes, streams, and coastal waters,” Collins concluded.

Dilley continued to correspond with Collins, thanking her for the letter and asking her to consider what is at stake should the section of pipeline that runs through Maine be used to transport tar sands oil.

Dilley pointed out the importance of the water quality.

According to the Portland Water District website, Sebago Lake supplies 21 million gallons of water a day to 50,000 customers.

In her letter, Dilley said, “45% of that water comes from the trickle brooks, springs, brooks, rivers, spring-fed ponds that all go into Sebago Lake. This water is one of the few water sources that supplies unfiltered water” in the United States.

“Could you see one of Maine’s biggest water sources that supplies water to more people in Maine than any other location being unable to do so if a spill should happen? If you look at the information that the Portland Water District has on where the water comes from, you will see that the pipeline runs right next to these water sources,” Dilley wrote.

She extended an invitation to Collins to take a horseback ride through the fragile ecosystem where the pipelines are located.

Currently, there have been no official requests by PPLC to reverse the flow of the pipelines running between Portland and Montreal.

Dilley said she hoped Mainers would oppose such a plan — at the grass roots level, but also those Mainers who represent the state in the political arena.

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said he received an e-mail from Dilley, showing her correspondence with Rep. Collins.

“She had made an inquiry to Susan Collins. She was satisfied with the letter she got back. So, she sent another and got a better response.

“Dilley wrote a very well-put-together letter, which had some great thoughts,” Morton said.

According to Morton, the latest development regarding the National Energy Board in Canada has spurred some conversation in Casco.

During a meeting about the Tenney Hill reparation funds, the subject was groundwater protection.

“The tar sands topic was broached,” Morton said.

Nothing was decided, but it is on people’s minds, he said.

 

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