The South Portland City Council has committed itself to creating an ordinance banning the piping of tar sands through the city.
This ordinance would benefit surrounding communities as much as South Portland itself. Munjoy Hill lies as close as most of South Portland to planned ventilation stacks that would emit toxic fumes such as benzene, known to cause cancer.
Unlike typical crude oil, tar sands sink rather than float in water. It is impossible to remove. The ordinance would save Portland Harbor and Casco Bay from irreversible harm to fishing and recreation caused by a spill from a 60-year-old pipeline never designed to carry tar sands.
The ordinance would likewise avoid the risk of tar sands spilling into Sebago Lake, the source of drinking water for 200,000 people in the Portland area. It would protect rivers and lakes from Portland to Montreal.
Far more energy that releases carbon dioxide is required to extract and transport tar sands than for any other fuel. It is an outsized contributor to global warming and sea level rise.
Meanwhile, the city of Portland anticipates that hundreds of millions of dollars will soon have to be spent shoring up buildings near Back Cove as sea level rise makes flooding routine. If we allow tar sands to become a dominant source of fuel, such defensive measures will soon be futile.
South Portland’s problems are everyone’s problem. Its intended solution, stopping the transport of tar sands, must become every community’s solution.