South Portland Votes to Keep Tar Sands Oil Away, Southern Keystone Leg Ready

After a voter referendum to keep tar sands oil out of Portland, Maine failed by 192 votes, the city’s council is taking the matter into their own hands.

South Portland’s City Council voted 6-1 to approve a moratorium on tar sands oil yesterday. In force until May, it gives members time to craft an ordinance that permanently blocks Canadian tar sands oil from being shipped through the city’s port.

They are doing so under threats of lawsuits from the American Petroleum Institute – the group that poured in $600,000 in money and misinformation at the last minute, getting them just enough votes to squash the referendum.

Hopefully, this will be the end to one of the key routes Canada’s oil companies want to use to export tar sands oil from the US.

Tar sands pipeline New England route

If you remember, Portland Pipe and Alberta tar sands companies want to reverse the flow of the 62-year-old pipeline that’s been carrying crude oil from Portland’s port to Montreal. Instead, it would carry tar sands oil from Alberta through the lakes region in Maine and out of the US through Portland’s port.

"The problems with tar sands are threefold," says Tom Blake, South Portland’s Mayor. "We have a sustainability resolution that says South Portland will do whatever we can to reduce our footprint on the planet – and promoting a new form of extraction, especially one as damagin as tar sands mining in Alberta, increases our footprint. Number two is transportation. Sending the dirtiest oil on earth through our community violatees what I consider to be good health and safety standards for South Portland. Number three is emissions. South Portland has signed onto the US Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, which commits our city to enact policies that meet or beat the targets suggested by the Kyoto Protocol. Building smoke-stacks would obviously worsen the air that our children have to breathe. This is about those kids and their kids, Blake told On Earth.

On a recent hiking vacation in the Arkansas Ozarks, Blake saw too many parallels between the situation in Maine and Exxon’s pipeline blowout there. "Every morning we would see local headlines about the Exxon oil spill in Mayflower. The more I read, I thought: This is South Portland." The two pipelines are similar ages and as in Mayflower, a crude oil pipeline would reverse course to carry tar sands oil. Every article detailed a different angle: how the spill impacted fisheries, drinking water, tourism," he told On Earth.

When the petition for Portland’s referendum was submitted, Portland Pipe’s CEO tried to have one-on-one talks with each council member. While several wouldn’t talk with him, Mayor Blake did. "I told him: You could become a leader in America. You could have one of the most liberal towns in America love you, because you converted all your resources into clean energy."

Meanwhile on December 6, a Quebec National Assembly committee votedthe first step in transporting tar sands from Alberta to South Portland.

And Keystone? 

The southern leg of the Keystone pipeline is just about complete and in January will begin carrying tar sands oil from Oklahoma through Texas to the Gulf.

"Despite brave opposition from groups like Tar Sands Blockade, Keystone South is now 95 percent complete, and the administration is in court seeking to beat back the last challenges from landowners along the way. The president went ahead and got it done. If only he’d apply that kind of muscle to stopping climate change.," says Bill McKibben in his latest missive in Rolling Stone.

Public Citizen released a report showing it is riddled with flaws: sags, dents, welding flaws and a litany of structural problems. It passes 630 streams and rivers in Texas.

"What appears to be problematic construction and corner-cutting raises questions not only about the chances of a spill, but also about the quality of TransCanda’s in-house inspection system, as well as the ability of the federal government to oversee the process," warns Public Citizen.

If these companies want the right to build these pipelines everywhere, the least they could do is construct them properly!

Here’s the report:

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Comments on “South Portland Votes to Keep Tar Sands Oil Away, Southern Keystone Leg Ready”

  1. Karla Labrecque

    From the front lines of the oil fields . . . What message does it send to the world about Alberta’s oil sands production when Baytex Energy is forcing my family and our neighbours from our homes through open venting its oil sands processing tanks?  Penn West and other Alberta companies capture their oil sands gasses and run closed systems:  why won’t Baytex take the same responsibility?  See firsthand four yourself at   Help us get back into our homes.   Breathable air and a thriving energy sector are not mutually exclusive.  Canada can do better.  Facebook at


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