March 2, 2013

Letters to the editor: Tar sands oil poses serious risks

As a citizen and partner in a small business, I care very much about our exposures to risk of all kinds.

click image to enlarge

People march to the Maine State Pier in Portland in January during a rally protesting tar sands oil.

2013 File Photo/Gregory Rec

Some risks, I'm finding, are unknown by intent, and tar sands oil is an example.

Did you know that the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill is the most expensive on-shore spill in U.S. history?

If a Kalamazoo River-type spill happened in our Androscoggin, Crooked or tributary rivers, our economy and population would suffer grievously for decades -- perhaps never to recover as people moved away.

The Kalamazoo tar sands oil spill wrecked 30 miles of river and ruined people's lives, health, neighborhoods and businesses.

It remains unsatisfactorily cleaned up to this day, and the nearby homes and businesses are now being bought and cleared by the oil company.

Oil interests would have us believe that tar sands oil is no different from normal crudes, but that is demonstrably not true.

It is much more dangerous and requires special treatment from the point of extraction all the way to the refineries.

The more I discover about tar sands oil, the worse it gets. U.S. and Canadian environmental groups are trying to inform folks in target areas of the risks, and I'm grateful for their efforts. You should be, too, and you should start your own search for authoritative reports and information.

Check the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club websites for starters. See you at the meetings.

Seabury Lyon

Bethel

It's Jeff Estabrook's opinion (Feb. 10, "Letters to the editor: Don't allow the carping few to determine pipeline's fate") that most Mainers don't oppose pumping tar sands oil through Maine. I think that's because most don't know what tar sand is yet. He thinks Mainers have too much common sense to worry about a future oil spill. I say we have enough sense to do some research and weigh the possibilities.

Tar sand is like peanut butter. To get to a refinery, it must be thinned with chemicals and pumped at higher pressure than conventional oil to push it through a pipeline. Tar sands pipelines spill more often than conventional oil pipelines. How much pressure can the 62-year-old Portland pipeline take?

Tar sand's toxic fumes cause sickness and respiratory problems. Its chemicals contaminate water and are causing deformed fish. The solids sink in water and are only removed by scraping or dredging -- bad news for creatures living below.

An Enbridge pipeline fractured in Madison, Mich., in 2010, pumping 800,000 gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River for 17 hours, contaminating 35 miles of river. Fumes forced evacuation of 100 homes. Two and a half years later, the cleanup cost is about $785 million and not finished yet. Fifty homes are still vacant.

The Portland pipeline runs past Sebago Lake, which provides water for 200,000 people in 11 communities. Consider the possibility of no clean water for a couple of years.

I'm not against oil. I drive a car, and oil heats our home. I'm against tar sands oil. There are plenty of reasons to leave it in the ground. Our effort and money would be better invested in developing renewable energy sources and reducing our oil dependence.

I encourage Mr. Estabrook to do further research. Meanwhile, we "activists" will spread the word and try to stop tar sands before it's too late.

Marty Braun

Peaks Island

Longfellow goes above and beyond in face of disaster

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