April 21, 2013

Another View: Portland Pipe Line issues aren't resolved by current use

Instead, what counts is what may happen if it is ever used to carry tar sands oil.


The long article in the March 31 Maine Sunday Telegram ("Pipeline company points to record of safety in tar-sands oil debate") did a good job of describing the Canadian pipeline running through Maine, and how it tries to ensure safety in its present use.

But the article was very lax as an informational tool when describing the implications of the potential repurposing of the pipeline (to move a different product in the opposite direction from its usual flow).

First, the article reported the pipeline company as saying that the bitumen product (what is called "tar sands") is no more viscous than the product currently going through the pipeline, which is entirely wrong and could have been easily researched and verified.

Second, the article didn't even mention the consequences of a rupture to the Sebago Lake watershed -- the consequences of which would be so enormous, given bitumen's tendency to sink in water (not to mention that nearly a quarter of a million people depend upon that water supply daily).

Third, the devastation currently going on in Alberta, Canada, where the bitumen originates, is environmentally horrific, with huge amounts of water being used to process a product that delivers very little energy relative to that used to develop it.

Not to mention that tainted water is then dumped into huge tailing ponds that pollute the soil. (These facts are easily checked.)

Fourth, these considerations don't even touch on the most important worry, which is that further climate change and air pollution will result from burning all that bitumen!

Let's move away from the quick fix of short-term energy now, and an unnecessarily wounded planet later, to something with a future for our kids.

Dana Sawyer is a resident of Portland.

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