About 60 people gathered in the rain Saturday morning at Deering Oaks in Portland to hear speakers protest the extraction of oil from western Canadian sand formations.

The speakers, including Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, spoke out against the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would transport oil from western Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast. Protesters say that tar sands oil is dirtier to refine and more dangerous to transport than other forms of crude oil.

“The reason we are here is so our grandchildren will have the future they deserve,” said Brennan.

Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the New England Petroleum Council, was at the rally passing out information disputing the protesters’ claims.

The petroleum council describes the Canadian oil sands as one of the largest and most secure supplies of energy in the world. The council disputes claims that tar sands oil pollutes more than other forms of crude oil.

The crowd did not begin to approach the size of previous protests in Maine against tar sands oil. In January 2013 about 1,400 protesters turned out in bitterly cold conditions on Portland’s Maine State Pier, and about 200 showed up at a protest at Sebago Lake in July.

“The weather is a challenge,” Bob Klotz, a member of the environmental group, 350 Maine, said of Saturday’s small turnout.

Greater Portland has become a hot spot for protests against tar sands oil since environmental groups raised concerns that the Portland Pipe Line Corp. intended to reverse the flow of its oil pipeline to allow refineries to transport tar sands oil from Montreal to Portland for export.

Last fall South Portland voters narrowly rejected a proposed ordinance that would have barred tar sands from being handled through the city’s port, where the Portland Pipe Line begins.

The South Portland City Council then passed a moratorium on any oil-related development while a committee drafts a new ordinance proposal to ban tar sands oil from being handled at its port. The new draft ordinance is expected to be completed by the committee in June.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com