The letter “Moratorium on tar sands oil ignores voters’ decision” (Jan. 23) misrepresents many key facts about events in South Portland. In 300 words, I can correct only three.

The citizens of South Portland are, in fact, undertaking a clear act of democratic self-determination.

First, the Nov. 5 vote was on a specific ordinance change, not tar sands in general. The change was rejected by a small margin: legally conclusive, but in terms of public opinion a statistical tie.

Furthermore, persuasive evidence suggests majority public opinion was against tar sands but did not support this solution.

Finally, during months of public discussion, opinion shifted among elected city councilors, who, originally holding a variety of views, now have a unanimous consensus that tar-sands “dilbit” trans-shipment is bad for South Portland.

Recent council votes establishing tar-sands policy direction, appointing the Draft Ordinance Committee and directing the committee have been unanimous.

Councilors are doing what they’re elected to do – consider facts, listen to people, determine policy and implement solutions within city jurisdiction. Democracy is in action.

Second, South Portland’s history is not, as letter writer R. Ted Laguerre states, “built largely on oil.” Trans-shipment of bulk crude oil arrived only within living memory in 1941, after 311 years of prior settlement. It was established by federal pre-emption for national security reasons during World War II.

Today, Exxon, through its subject entity, the Portland Pipe Line Corp., controls these publicly established assets for private profit.

Third, tar-sands so-called “oil” is not oil, but bitumen/tar, a gooey substance that sinks in water. It is diluted with dangerous volatile chemicals, creating “dilbit,” so it can be pumped. Google “Kalamazoo River oil spill” and “Mayflower oil spill” to see what dilbit has done to communities just like South Portland.

Bob Whyte

South Portland