April 24, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Lobbying for tar sands oil is pretty slick

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

Easier to identify are the lobbyists for the not-yet-really-a-project.

Two weeks ago, Portland-Montreal Pipe Line President Wilson and Secretary-Treasurer David Cyr went to Washington, where they met up with Peter Lidiak, pipeline director for the American Petroleum Institute.

They then made the rounds to the offices of Sen. Angus King, Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Mike Michaud, imploring each lawmaker from Maine to at least keep an "open mind" about the project that is not yet even ... well, you know.

At each stop, the visitors got the same response: If there is an attempt to switch the pipeline to tar sands oil, be prepared for lengthy -- and entirely appropriate -- government scrutiny. Starting with the "presidential permit" required by the State Department for new pipelines that cross the U.S. border.

King told the group that reversing the flow of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line "is presidential-permit-worthy. And it's up to the petroleum industry to convince me otherwise."

Collins, in a prepared statement Tuesday, recalled that the pipeline officials "were not definitive in response to my questions" about exactly what they were up to.

"Should the company decide to seek approval for this new use," Collins added, "I would expect that appropriate environmental impact reviews would be completed."

Ditto for Pingree and Michaud, both of whom signed a letter in February (along with 16 other members of Congress) calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to require a presidential permit and an accompanying environmental impact statement "to determine the risks to the region and ensure adequate protections for our communities."

(What risks? See: Major pipeline spills of tar-sands crude in 2010 in Michigan's Kalamazoo River, and just last month in Arkansas.)

Pipeline President Wilson said he had no choice but to go to Capitol Hill to defend his company against "a constant barrage of attacks" by environmentalists and media types "trying to keep our company from doing something we've done safely for 72 years."

Fair enough.

But what about that push poll?

Where does trying to change Triss Critchfield's mind about tar-sands oil fit into preserving the good name of a company that -- one last time -- has no active plan to pump the stuff through Maine?

"I don't know about this polling question," Wilson repeated. "You'll have to talk to the people conducting the poll."

If only it were that easy.

 

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

 

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