November 1, 2013

Letters to the editor: Unconventional oil threatens Casco Bay

The Waterfront Protection Ordinance will protect South Portland residents and their neighbors to the west from the risks associated with reversing the pipeline.

A former lobsterman worries that the fishery and the environment as a whole would be at risk if the Portland Pipe Line Corp. is allowed to reverse its flow and bring tar sands-derived oil here.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

As a former lobsterman from Cliff Island, I feel a deep responsibility to protect Casco Bay, its hardworking people and its incredible resources. (Lobster landings in Casco Bay last year were at a record high of 13.6 million pounds worth $39.8 million.)

Now is the time to see clearly what is at stake and ensure that the thick tar (bitumen), diluted with benzene and other carcinogenic solvents, isn’t allowed to burden us with its nature-destroying blight.

Tar sands oil is a dirty business from start to finish. If we do not act locally to protect our health, the air we breathe and the waters from which we drink, lobster and fish, it will be out of our hands. At this point our voices can be loud and clear: “Reversing the pipeline for tar sands oil is not good for Mainers and not good for the Earth.”

The train wreck in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, should have taught us a lot. The “fracked” shale oil that exploded in Quebec is no ordinary crude oil. It is more explosive. So is tar sands, which needs added solvents that allow it to flow.

We do not have to be deceived by claims that we would be harming our port by protecting our natural resources and our Sebago Lake water supply. Our oil port industry will remain healthy.

The lobster and fishing industries, marinas and recreational interests, the vacation and hospitality industries and the area’s magnetism as a “high-quality place to live” all depend on protecting our air, our land, our drinking waters and our coastal waters. What kind of world do we want to pass on to our children?

Ted Reiner

South Portland

Voting to update teaching labs is great investment

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Maine citizens will have the opportunity to help our public universities improve the education offered to students in the sciences, technology, engineering and math.

Study after study shows that college-educated citizens in these STEM disciplines are absolutely critical if we are to be a part of the innovation-based economy of the 21st century.

Question 2 on the Nov. 5 ballot, if approved, will provide $15.5 million to update existing laboratory and classroom facilities throughout our statewide University of Maine System. The University of Southern Maine would receive $4 million for improvements to instructional science labs on its three campuses in Lewiston-Auburn, Portland and Gorham.

Question 5 on the ballot will, if approved, provide $15.5 million to the Maine Community College System to allow the system to upgrade buildings, classrooms and laboratories so the system can expand its programs in health care, precision machining, information technology and other key programs.

Question 4 on the ballot, if approved, will provide Maine Maritime Academy with $4.5 million for a public-private partnership for a new science facility.

USM, its sister institutions, the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy have done a tremendous job of leveraging dedicated federal, state and private funds to make targeted investments in research and upper-level labs.

But in an era of fiscal constraints, rising equipment costs, aging facilities and rapidly changing technology, there are fewer and fewer funding sources to help with updating of undergraduate teaching labs.

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