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Does Exxon Mobil own a piece of Maine?

A group of environmental organizations is calling attention to the fact the ExxonMobil -- the world's largest company by revenue -- is the majority owner (at 76 percent) of the oil pipeline that runs through Maine, past the Androscoggin and Crooked rivers, and Sebago Lake. This is the pipeline that I wrote about earlier this summer -- the one that oil giants want to use to pump tar sands from Western Canada to the Portland Harbor. Tar sands are a particularly heavy and toxic form of petroleum, extracted in environmentally harmful ways. 

Here's the info, earthed up by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, Environment Maine, and more:

"The research released today finds that the pipeline between Portland, Maine and Montreal has two direct corporate owners: Montreal Pipe Line Limited (MPLL), which owns the stretch in Canada from the US border to Montreal, and the Portland Pipe Line Corporation, which owns the US section and is a wholly owned subsidiary of MPLL. In turn a direct subsidy of ExxonMobil, Imperial Oil Limited, holds a major interest (76 percent) in the pipeline. A smaller portion (24 percent) is owned by the Canadian giant Suncor Energy."

That's a lot of layers, but what it ultimately means (at least to enviros) is that "the biggest of big oil" (as Natural Resources Council of Maine clean energy project director Dylan Voorhees put it at a press conference this morning) -- and one of the biggest tar sands developers in Canada -- has a vested interest and influence in Maine's pipeline. 

While the Portland Pipe Line Corporation continues to say there is no proposal in the works -- spokesman Ted O'Meara said so just this morning, when I called him for comment -- tar sands opponents are increasingly jittery about the prospect. 

"The evidence is overwhelming that this project is moving forward," Voorhees said, citing back room, previously undisclosed meetings between state officials -- including Governor Paul LePage -- and Canadian and American oil people. For example, on October 17, 2011, according to emails obtained by the National Wildlife Federation, there was a "meeting to discuss Canadian Oil Sands Development with Governor LePage."

Here is O'Meara's full response to my inquiry, sent via email: "Portland Pipe Line, a Maine corporation, is owned by Montreal Pipe Line, a privately-held Canadian company. Operating as Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, these two companies control the operations of the pipeline and terminal. Montreal Pipe Line's shareholders are Imperial, Shell and Suncor. Since the ExxonMobil connection is through Imperial, one of the shareholders, you should contact Imperial directly."

Doing so now. 

If you want to learn more about the prospect of tar sands in Maine, you're in luck. There's a forum tonight, “Tar Sands Oil Pipeline: The Risks to South Portland and Casco Bay and Beyond.” at Southern Maine Community College, Jewett Hall, from 7-8 pm. Several experts will be in attendance.

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