For more than a year anti-fossil fuel activists promoting an off-oil agenda have used exaggeration and falsehoods to scare local residents into believing a uniquely dangerous product will soon be flowing through Maine communities.

The claims about oil sands-derived crude from Alberta, Canada (or “tar sands” as activists have labeled it) do not stand up to a fact-based review that fairly considers risk, our energy needs and a local company’s track record of safety and stewardship.

The balanced and responsible resolution passed by the Raymond Board of Selectman at its April 2nd meeting came from a fair and deliberative process.

Oil and gas account for 60 percent of U.S. energy demands. For decades to come we will continue to need access to affordable and abundant forms of fossil fuel-based energy to power our economy, fuel our vehicles, and heat our homes. Suggesting otherwise flies in the face of the technical and economic realities of the times.

The Alberta Oil Sands is the third-largest proven supply of crude in the world and is our best hope of diminishing our demand for oil from parts of the world that are unstable or hostile to our national interests. Canada is our best trading partner and our closest ally.

Canada is also the only nation among our five largest suppliers of crude that regulate greenhouse gases (GHG), achieving a 26-percent reduction in GHG emissions since 1990. Recognizing the importance of extracting oil sands crude responsibly, leaders in Alberta announced earlier this month a plan to reduce GHG emissions by 40 percent per barrel of production.

Pipelines are far-and-away the safest way to move oil and gas to market. The Portland-Montreal Pipeline is an award winning, industry leader when it comes to safety. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection reports the company has an “impressive safety and environmental record,” and is “an important partner,” in spill prevention.

We know that the oft-repeated phrase about safety being no accident certainly applies to pipelines. The resolution passed by Raymond acknowledges the critical partnership that exists among pipeline operators, local officials and the many state and federal agencies involved in monitoring and regulating pipeline operation.

These agencies include the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Department of Transportations Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration pursuant to the Pipeline Safety Act of 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Coast Guard among others.

The due diligence sought by Raymond’s leaders from these agencies is an entirely appropriate request and is responsive to the concerns and interests of the community.

To consider the full message from Raymond we must also consider the many exaggerations and misrepresentations left out of the final resolution as community leaders considered the best available facts.

Earlier versions of the resolution falsely gave the impression that oil sands-derived crude represent new threats to the environment and increased the odds of pipeline incidents.

According to the Obama Administration’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone Pipeline Project released last month, oil sands-derived crude is generally comparable to conventional crude oils. The EIS also reported that pipeline incident rates involving Alberta pipelines that have been transporting oil sands crude for decades are similar to systems carrying conventional crude.

The Obama Administration looked at corrosivity, viscosity, acid and sulfur content, temperature and other characteristics in reaching its finding and providing the assurance that oil sands crude does not represent additional risks in terms of pipeline transportation.

Raymond also heard directly from the operators of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline that any product it transports is triple-checked for adherences to its design specifications. Crude is not heated for transportation and the operators reduce speed rather than increase pressure to move heavier crudes through the line.

The Portland-Montreal Pipeline does not have a pending reversal project that would move oil sands-derived crude from Alberta to Portland Harbor. Nevertheless, a fair-minded review of the facts surrounding oil sands, as was the case in Raymond, suggests that the balance between our environment and our energy needs can be maintained if a project materializes in the future.

John Quinn is the executive director of the New England Petroleum Council.


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