Portland Maine: Important Vote on Tar Sands Today!

On election day, residents in Portland, Maine will vote on a referendum that could decide whether tar sands oil will flow through New England.

If voters pass the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, that would amend Portland’s code so that a terminal to store, process and export tar sands oil could not be built.

Without a way to export, that would end the discussion of tar sands in Maine – a really creative solution.

Tar Sands Portland Referendum

As we’ve been reporting, tar sands companies are hedging their bets on Keystone’s approval by finding other routes to the coast for export. A prime option is to reverse the flow of a 62-year-old crude oil pipeline that carries oil from Portland to Canada. By blocking exports out of Portland, this referendum would put an end to that option.

Not surprisingly, the oil industry is spending $600,000 – six times that of activists, which depend on individual donations. So far, volunteers have knocked on 12,000 doors to get their message out. 

A columnist for Portland’s paper calls the oil industry’s push-back "unbelievably slick." It is "so slick that it’s impossible to navigate this hot-and-getting-hotter campaign without slipping on a scare tactic masquerading as a fact," says Bill Nemitz.

"Pipelines that carry tar sands oil are more risky, which makes the prospect of using an ancient pipeline to bring tar sands oil through Maine a scary prospect," says Portland Councilor Dave Marshall, Chair of the Transportation, Sustainability, and Energy Committee. "It is even more concerning when the pipeline runs through the watershed of Sebago Lake, perhaps the best drinking water supply in the world. Additionally, the pipeline ends in South Portland, where the Fore River delta meets Casco Bay, a rich marine habitat and the key to our tourist industry. Portland has everything to lose, and nothing to gain from transportation of tar sands oil through our region and the State of Maine."

Pursuing tar sands is important for the pipeline owners because as natural gas has replaced oil for heating oil in the northeast, they are looking for business.

"The similarities between [the spill in] Mayflower [Arkansas] and South Portland are incredible. A 60 year-old pipeline owned by ExxonMobil, built to carry oil, but now carrying tar sands," South Portland Mayor Tom Blake told Center for American Progress.

Protect South Portland needs another $2000 to reach qualified voters with flyers and door tags, please donate – we did! Here is the website:

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