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Tar sands issue heating up

Days before what they are billing as the biggest anti-tar-sands rally ever in the Northeast, environmental activists gathered first at Portland City Hall and then outside of the Portland Pipe Line Corporation headquarters in South Portland this morning. 

At City Hall, mayor Michael Brennan and city councilor Dave Marshall spoke in support fo a new Environmental Performance Policy that would make the city "tar-sands free" by directing city manager Mark Rees "not to purchase any oil-based fuels from refineries that process tar sands." The proposal, which the full city council will consider at its meeting tonight, also seeks to eliminate the use of styrofoam and water bottles in city operations. 

Currently, there isn't much tar sands oil in the city's fuel mix, said Environment Maine director Emily Figdor. But market conditions are changing, and she expects that soon, there will be much more. 

By moving forward with the Environmental Performance Policy, "we took an additional step beyond the symbolic," Brennan said, noting that this policy could affect actual change (as opposed to general resolutions expressing opposition to tar sands oil in general, which generally have no teeth).

Some members of the group then moved across the bridge to South Portland, where the Portland Pipe Line Corporation offices are located amidst huge, light-green oil tanks. Bright-orange barricades and "No Trespassing" signs had been put up overnight, said Bob Klotz, statewide coordinator for 350.org (he lives in the area and didn't see them when he drove by last night). A private security guard hired for the day by the Pipe Line Corporation would not let the 30 sign-wielding protesters beyond the front gate. 

Undeterred, Klotz began using the intercom, attempting to reach officials inside the building. After leaving several voice messages, he called the cell phone of Pipe Line president Larry Wilson. 

"Unfortunately he doesn't have the time to talk to us," he told the freezing crowd when he got off the phone. However, Wilson did take Klotz's name and number and promised to call back and set up a meeting. 

Yeah, right.  

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