Will tar sands oil tarnish pristine Sebago Lake?


Here's a basic map, courtesy of the Sierra Club, of the pipeline's route through New England to the Portland harbor. Note that the pipeline passes by Sebago Lake, which, as we've previously noted, provides drinking water for 15 percent of Maine's population. 

"One of the major concerns for the Keystone project was the possible pollution of the giant aquifer in Nebraska and Kansas," says Glen Brand, a longtime environmentalist who was just hired as the first-ever director of the Sierra Club's Maine chapter. "I think we also have a similar concern here, with Sebago Lake."

Brand notes that Enbridge Pipelines Inc., the Canadian company looking to reverse the flow in the Portland-to-Montreal pipeline, had an oil spill in 2010 that affected the Kalamazoo River, which feeds into Lake Michigan.

In Canada, there has been public opposition to an Enbridge proposal that would reverse the direction of crude oil flow from tar sands in Western Canada to Ontario; observers see this proposal as the first leg of Enbridge's piecemeal attempt to pump tar sands oil into the United States. Canadian landowners and environmental groups are concerned in part because "the [Canadian] pipeline is relatively old, built in 1975, and made of the same material used in pipelines that ruptured in Michigan [in 2010] and Alberta [in 2011]," according to The Montreal Gazette.

The pipeline in Maine, built in the 1940s to protect oil supplies from Germans stationed in Western Atlantic waters, is even older. 

Because of Enbridge's piecemeal strategy, it's unclear what state and federal hurdles they'd have to clear before getting the go ahead. "It's different from Keystone in that there's an existing line," Brand points out. He says there is a law in Vermont that calls for public input regarding projects of this magnitude. "We're looking now into permitting and what the opportunities for public input will be in Maine."

Stay tuned. 

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