Resolution could be blueprint for other Maine towns near rivers
BY RAMONA DU HOUX
March 2, 2013
“After hearing from experts on both sides, and after more than an hour of discussion, the people of Waterford have spoken,” says Waterford Select Board Chair Randy Lessard. “We feel as a town that transporting tar sands oil through the Portland-Montreal pipeline poses unpredictable risks to the health, safety, natural resources, property and economic welfare of Waterford residents.”
Waterford residents voted today to pass a municipal resolution stating opposition to sending tar sands oil through ExxonMobil’s Portland-Montreal Pipeline, making it the third Maine town to publicly and officially oppose the proposal. The resolution could be used as blueprint for other towns in Maine next to rivers.At today’s town meeting more than a half dozen pipeline industry representatives lobbied the townspeople against this resolution.
The 62-year-old pipeline, which stretches 236 miles from Montreal to South Portland, is being considered for the transport of tar sands, a form of toxic, thick, heavy oil that is associated with higher incidence of pipeline spills and can be nearly impossible to clean up. The pipeline stretches 7.8 miles through Waterford along the Crooked River watershed crossing the river five times. The pipeline also passes by both Papoose and McWain Ponds in Waterford.
“The 7.8 mile Waterford section of the pipeline holds nearly one million gallons of oil. From the Raymond shut-off valve to the Waterford shut off valve the 25 miles holds over 3 million gallons of oil,” said Waterford resident and retired scientist and educator Earl Morse. “If this antiquated pipeline carries tar sands and ruptures like what happened in Kalamazoo, Michigan in July 2010, the Crooked River watershed and Sebago Lake would be devastated.”
The resolution stated concerns about the environmental and public health hazards of tar sands in the context of a town and region heavily dependent on a clean environment for recreation, tourism, and the economy at large.
“As a landowner of 480 acres along the Crooked River and a mile of land that the pipeline traverses in Waterford, my land would be directly affected should tar sands be pumped through the Portland Montreal Pipeline,” said Waterford resident Bart Hague. “A tar sands oil spill in the wetland habitat along the Crooked River would be nearly impossible to clean up since tar sands is heavier and thicker than conventional oil.”
Concerns about threats to water quality also motivated the resolution.
“A tar sands oil spill in to the Crooked River would be a disaster for Maine people and wildlife,” said Lee Dassler, Executive Director of the Western Foothills Land Trust. The Crooked River is a AA water quality river, which is supposed to be the cleanest and most protected in Maine. It also provides critical spawning habitat for Maine Landlocked Salmon. The Crooked River also provides 40% of the surface water to Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for 1 in 7 Maine people.”
The resolution was submitted by Waterford residents who have become increasingly concerned about the threat of tar sands oil to the local environment and economy. Waterford residents presented the resolution to the select board in December and asked for it to be placed on the ballot for today’s town meeting.
“I have been thrilled to see so many Waterford residents attending community presentations over the past few months to educate themselves about tar sands oil and how it would affect us here in town,” says Waterford resident Paula Easton. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. I’m glad folks got the facts before today’s town meeting vote.”
The resolution calls upon elected leaders to help ensure any tar sands pipeline proposal gets a complete environmental impact review, something that can be required by the U.S. State Department for cross-border pipelines. More than 50 towns along the pipeline route in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are considering similar resolutions.
“We congratulate the town and citizens of Waterford on passing this important resolution,” said Todd Martin, Outreach Coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Once you learn about tar sands and pipelines, it’s not hard to see that it would be a bad deal for Maine. We expect dozens of other towns along the pipeline to speak out in the coming months.”
Waterford Tar Sands Resolution:
We, the citizens of Waterford Maine, have come to understand that the Portland-Montreal Pipeline which runs through our town is being considered for the transport of tar sands oil from Montreal to South Portland, which would be a reversal of flow and change from its original use.
a) We are opposed to any change in either the flow direction or the type product pumped for any of the current crude oil pipelines that flow through Waterford and cross the Crooked River it’s tributaries, wetlands and aquifer.
b) Through the adoption of this resolution, the Town of Waterford expresses its opposition to the transport of tar sands through our town via the existing Public Utility Easement. We feel that such transport is of no benefit to Waterford and entails unacceptable risk to our river, our public health and safety, property values, recreation resources, water quality, and the pristine natural resources upon which our community depends.
c) Through the adoption of this resolution, the town of Waterford calls upon the Maine State Legislature, United States Congress, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and State Departments to require thorough environmental impact reviews of all tar sands pipeline proposals, including a complete evaluation of the health, safety and environmental risks.
d.) Through the adoption of this resolution, the town of Waterford supports the creation of clear Federal and State guidelines for tracking the chemical composition of pipeline transported fuels so that local governments, citizens, and first responders can better understand, and plan for, the risks associated with the specific type of fuel flowing through or to their communities.
e.) Through the adoption of this resolution, the town of Waterford encourages the State of Maine and other states in the northeast to support policies that help develop and shift fuel use away from high impact fuels such as tar sands.
f.) Through the adoption of this resolution, the town of Waterford will transmit a copy of this resolution to the Maine State Congressional delegation, Maine State Representative of Waterford, and the Maine State Senator representing Waterford, the US EPA and State Departments.