Last night, the city's Transportation, Sustainability, and Energy Committee unanimously approved a resolution calling upon the state legislature, US State Department, US Congress, US Environmental Protection Agency, and President Barack Obama to "require a thorough analysis of the potential impacts of any tar sands oil pipeline proposal through Maine including evaluation of the health, safety, and environmental risks and spill response techniques and impacts."
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."
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.
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.
Anyone who thinks that January's much-hyped news about the Keystone XL pipeline is the ultimate victory against tar sands oil is sorely mistaken. In fact, there is a plan in the works to potentially pump such heavy, viscous oil into Portland.
Next week, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine will bring national enviro experts to the University of Southern Maine to outline about what this could mean for Maine, our environment, and our drinking water (Bill McKibben, who was in town just recently and is a leading activist against Big Oil, will supposedly be Skyping in).