For more than a year now activists with a narrow, off-oil agenda have been working hard to convince area residents that a particular petroleum product from a particular place on the planet presents the gravest possible threat to South Portland and its residents.

They call it Tar Sands. The activists who want to ban this product as part of their global campaign against fossil fuels have fabricated their facts, questioned the intentions of a company that has operated with integrity in South Portland for decades, and used wild claims to spread hysteria.

Energy Citizens is an organization that exists to educate and empower citizens who are concerned about maintaining our access to abundant and secure supplies of energy. We engage on issues of national and even global importance. We are working in South Portland to make sure energy-consuming citizens in this community have the facts and understand the stakes.

Last summer, for example, off-oil activists claimed a non-existent reversal project at the Portland Pipe Line was imminent and that two mammoth, toxin-emitting smoke stacks would be built at Bug Light Park. Nearly 3,800 South Portland voters responded to the alarm, signing a petition that put the overly broad and divisive Waterfront Protection Ordinance on the ballot. Many of those petition signers ended up voting against the WPO once they learned the truth.

There were no active plans last summer to reverse the pipeline. And Portland Pipe Line, a trusted South Portland neighbor for 70 years, repeated again last week that it has no proposed, pending or imminent plan to reverse the flow of its pipeline.

Throughout the fall the organization known as Protect South Portland sent activists canvassing through local neighborhoods promising that the WPO only targeted so-called “tar sands oil” and would protect traditional waterfront activities. Every paper that took a position on the WPO and five of South Portland’s seven City Council members argued the ordinance was too broad and should be defeated.

In the days after the defeat of the WPO the story changed. Many of last fall’s loudest voices for passage began admitting that the ordinance went too far and that the City Council needed to draft a narrower proposal. But the scope of their objective remains global in scale.

A leading member of Protect South Portland argued recently in a local paper that the endgame of their efforts is to impede the export venues of crude derived from the landlocked oil sands formations, stopping its extraction in the first place. He suggested that preventing a reversal project in South Portland empowers local resistance worldwide.

This global agenda puts a small number of activists at odds with the interests of the energy-consuming public at large who expect industry and government to work together to maintain uninterrupted access to safe and affordable supplies of energy.

The petroleum industry has been a job-creating and taxpaying waterfront neighbor in South Portland for a century. Our detractors sometimes label us “big oil,” but our industry consists of dedicated and earnest professionals who live locally and spend their days focused on meeting the energy needs of our customers.

Energy consumers in South Portland can rely on us to get gasoline to the pumps, keep heating oil in their tanks, and to safely deliver the energy that powers our economy. We can also be counted on to fight for fairness, science and a cooperative approach to regulation that ensures that companies large and small can continue to serve their energy-consuming customers.

We are engaged in South Portland to prevent myths about a product that presents no greater risk than traditional crude oils from being used to target the working waterfront. We want to ensure that industry participants and the products they produce and deliver to consumers are always judged on facts and actual science and make sure that consumers know that refined products derived from oil sands crude are already part of our energy mix.

The City of South Portland, the working waterfront and the petroleum industry have worked in collaboration for a century. This partnership is one of Maine’s longest and most important industrial traditions. Through education and collaboration that tradition can continue.

Energy Citizens will be hard at work in the community making sure those who are concerned about maintaining Maine’s link to energy markets have the information they need to take part in the conversation. Please consider visiting our website at and getting involved in your community’s and the country’s energy future.

John Quinn is a South Portland native and is the executive director of the New England Petroleum Council.

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