E/W Alert! Canada to send Tar Sands Oil East, all articles here!

Plus this update: LePage’s private dealings with TarSand companies

Defending Water for Life in Maine and Stop the East-West Corridor members have anticipated exposure of the link between tar-sands oil and the East-West Corridor due to pressure to get the oil from Alberta to east coast ports.

While other environmental groups are focused on opposing the reversal of the Portland-Montreal Enbridge pipeline to transport tar sands from Montreal to Portland, we believe the East-West Corridor is a very viable option for this highly competitive industry.

While Exxon/Mobil wants Enbridge, TransCanada wants another route to the Atlantic.  Now, Canada has expressed a desire to ship tar-sands oil to Irving’s refinery in St. John’s, placing tremendous pressure on the development of the East-West Corridor through Maine.

Update article (11-14-12): TransCanada does not foresee major resistance to eastern oil pipe proposal.

Update article (11-8-12): Line 9 – Shipping Tar Sands Crude East.

Update articles (10-31-12): Eastern oil pipeline proposal technically, economically feasible: TransCanada.

Update article (10-31-12): TransCanada promotes crude solution.

Update article (10-12-12): LePage and the Maine DEP have met behind closed doors with Tar-Sands companies.

Here are a handful of articles on this topic (original post):

Another View: Turns out Canada does want to send oil east via pipelines

Goldenberg: Alberta’s oil should flow east, not west

Shipping oil to Asia? The route’s east, not west

LD 1671 Work Session Testimony & Talking Points Resource

February 16, 2012

Dear members of the Transportation Committee,

I have compiled these points regarding LD 1671 that I urge you to consider.  We want to see Maine prosper.   Please do not allow this feasibility study to occur, for the following reasons:

Taxpayers funding a “financial” feasibility study, to see if private investors will profit.  During the public hearing, we learned for the first time that this study was, “really just a financial feasibility study,” according to Maine DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note.  They are not looking at routing, or environmental impact.  Rather, they are looking to see if the demand exists for this road, and if the toll road owners will make money.  Why should taxpayers do a financial risk assessment for private investors?

No way to limit the cost to taxpayers.  The RESOLVE asks for $300,000 of taxpayer money, then the Maine DOT puts the project out to bid.  According to Van Note, if the project requires more funding, they will not need to bring it back before the Transportation Committee, or request public permission.  Taxpayers are signing a blank check for a private project.

What exactly does “Independent study” mean?  During his testimony at the public hearing, Bruce Van Note said three different things in favor of this highway:  1) That the Maine DOT can’t do the study because this project is a “special” case and requires specific expertise.  2) That the Maine DOT needs to do the study so that it is “independent” and unbiased towards anyone who may benefit from the project.  3) That the project would be put up for bid.  We demand clarification from the State about how these mixed messages protect the public.

How much will a toll cost?  There is no way to control the cost, or to ensure accessibility to Mainers.  According to an inside source, the toll is proposed to cost $75.  However, Canadian transports could pay up to $150 for the toll and still save money cutting across Maine.  Toll investors are poised to profit handsomely just from that traffic. For all the honey-coated appeals to Maine people, saying this will bring tourism and jobs, that is not the intended purpose.  The toll may be exorbitant, and exclude most users other than Canadian truckers, and multinational corporations.

Not for Maine communities, or tourists.  In addition to being cost prohibitive, the east-west highway is a limited access throughway from Quebec to the Canadian Maritimes.  When questioned about how this road would access Maine communities, Peter Vigue could only name two places along the route: North of Dover Foxcroft, and at Route 201.  The exit at Dover Foxcroft allows for containers to be exchanged at Brownville Junction.  There is an additional intermodal facility proposed at the Costigan railroad junctions.  To reiterate, the road is designed for Canadian transport trucks, then multinational corporations who want to extract raw materials from Maine to export to global markets.

Diminished local economic opportunity, and community vibrancy. Globalization exploits resource-rich communities.  Take a broad look at other communities that have been used for raw resource extraction: the Middle East, most of Africa, South America, Haiti… some of the poorest and highest conflict-ridden areas in the world.  We see the same equation there: Low cost, raw resource extraction by wealthy private investors to profit in the global market.  That economic model only benefits a few, at the expense of the rest.  It leaves communities in poverty because they no longer have value in their land to sustain themselves, and in conflict because people are powerless to meet their needs.  Do we want Maine to be another colony?  By caring for the health of our land, and listening to the people who live on it, we support local economic initiatives, small business, and community vitality.

No public voice + limited state regulation = an environmental and community disaster.  This is an entirely private project.  There will be no public advocacy.  What do people do if any part of this project is unwanted?  Like all other private projects, investors will go through a regulatory permitting process for all their intended environmental impacts.  Due simply to access to capital, community voices are hushed by big business all the time.  Individuals have peanuts compared to corporate coffers.  Facing the reality of this power imbalance, deepens our concern over this project. The feasibility study opens the door to one of the most signficant landscape and cultural transformations Maine has ever seen, with no feedback from Mainers.  We are facing irreversible impact to the heart of Maine.

Burning even more fossil-fuel – that doesn’t seem right.  Globally and nationally, we are running out of oil.  To meet our current demand, people are considering dangerous and costly projects like moving Tar Sands oil from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries.  Building another road, that would cause irreversible damage to the environment and local communities, is moving in the wrong direction.  It is not a creative or innovative solution, it is exactly the opposite.

We urge the Transportation Committee and Maine Legislature to create a long-term vision that values Maine’s strengths, as opposed to focusing on Maine’s weaknesses. Maine is a treasure with unique and incredibly beautiful ecology.  Maine people are creative, hardworking, and passionate.  Please listen openly.  Let’s build on our strengths, not sell them out.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Chris Buchanan

grassroots organizer, Defending Water for Life in Maine

chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net

(207) 357-1443

Marie Zwicker’s Testimony in Opposition to LD 1671

As a voting resident and person who loves Maine “the way life should be” it has come to my attention that LD 1671, An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study of an East-west Highway, is scheduled for a public hearing. As my memory serves, such a road has been under discussion and proposed off and on for approximately 20 years. At this point in time, it seems to be that the Cianbro Corporation wants to move ahead with studies for a project that could prove immensely profitable to them. Cianbro doesn’t have the money for the feasibility study, and as part of their business group, wrote a letter to Legislators asking for an emergency bill (LR2358) to support funding. This entire issue is being rushed through the committee process in the legislature, the legislature which has sworn to represent the interests of the people, not the corporations, of Maine. This has tremendous potential to do terrible damage to the Maine that we, the People, love.

 

One of my most serious concerns about this highway involves the danger that it poses to our pristine and beautiful state.  Passing legislation for a quick feasibility study will not provide sufficient time for a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), therefore will not take into account potential environmental impacts of this highway, particularly with respect to impacts to our water, air and forest wildlands. We have built our economic and development policies based on a human-centric model and assumed that nature would never fail to provide or that technology would save us. That is being proved to be a fallacy. I have lived in Maine long enough to note with dismay what has been continuing to happen to our beautiful state. Our natural resources are continuing to be eroded away. This destructive path that has been gradually occurring will be greatly exaccerbated by an East-West highway.

 

Maine has the highest percentage of forests in the east. It is the reason why Maine is a destination point for tourists who wish to enjoy one of the last remaining unbroken areas of wildlands. This highway would fragment this important resource, not only fragmenting the habitats of endangered species and closing the door to the return of other native, indigenous species, but it would seriously harm those businesses that make their living from promoting hiking, canoeing, white-water rafting, fishing, wildlife watching, bird watching, photography, etc. Touirism will suffer greatly as there are not many tourists who will wish to visit an industrial/commercial wasteland.

 

Another matter that concerns the vast majority of people in this state is that a feasibility study of the East-West highway as a private toll road should not be funded by taxpayers.  It is crazy to expect Maine taxpayers to pay for this private toll road, especially when it was originally presented as not being funded by taxpayers.

 

This bill is being rushed through to serve the interests of Cianbro, a private corporation, and Canadian businesses looking to cut transportation costs, without looking at the public interest of all Mainers, nor the protection of our natural resources.  Will the cutting down of our forests, the selling of our water, the degradation of our air by highway pollutants and being a transport throughway be in the best interest of Maine residents now and in the future?

 

Unfortunately I am currently out-of-state visiting relatives and consequently am unable to attend the public hearing in person to present my comments and strong opposition to any feasibility study of an East-West highway. Therefore this letter must serve to represent me and my objections. I shall look forward to receiving a response indicating how you plan to take into consideration these important concerns. I have also contacted my own representatives and senators, both in Maine and the U.S., on this critical issue so that they will be aware of this important issue and my strong opposition to it.

 

Thank you,

 

Marie Louise Morandi Long Zwicker

P.O. Box 230

149 Sanctuary Way

Sullivan, ME 04664

(207)460-8920

Chris Buchanan’s Testimony in Oppostion of LD 1671

DEFENDING WATER FOR LIFE IN MAINE

273 Manchester Road

Belgrade, ME 04917

 

Statement to the Transportation Committee regarding LD1671:

We are OPPOSED to An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study of an East-west Highway

 

February 14, 2012 State House Room 126, 1pm

 

Testifying:  Chris Buchanan, Belgrade, 207-357-1443

chris@defendingwater.net

 

Defending Water for Life in Maine is opposed to LD 1671 for several reasons that we feel are critical to the wellbeing of Maine people and the land we live on.

 

First, it is unethical and dishonest to use $300,000 of taxpayer money to fund a private project, especially in the face of public cuts to healthcare, education, and social services.  As the committee is aware from previous testimony by Senator Doug Thomas, the east-west highway would be a private toll road.  Senator Thomas stated multiple times in his sponsorship of this study that it would not be funded by taxpayers, but rather, by private or federal funds.  On January 23rd he told the Dover-Foxcroft selectboard that it would not be funded by taxpayers, despite asking for funding from the General Fund.[1]  We oppose using public funds for a private project.

 

Second, we urge the Committee to look into the future and ask what the people of Maine want long term?  Considering rising fuel costs associated with less supply and more demand, and the fact that we are facing Peak Oil, we feel it is unwise and irresponsible to support a project that promotes burning fossil fuels to transport goods.

 

As leaders and representatives of Mainers, sworn to protect our health and welfare, we urge you to focus on alternatives that will benefit Maine people and our local economy.  Although it may be beyond the scope of this Committee in a broader sense, as a voice for the people we urge you to support initiatives that would spur local health, like assisting Mainers in creating value-added products, and revitalizing smaller communities.  The east-west highway would reduce the health and accessibility of Maine’s environment by burning more fossil fuels, and we would be investing in infrastructure that will become more and more obsolete over time.

 

In addition to supporting increased fossil fuel consumption in a world running out of fossil fuel and facing climate change, there are many other reasons the east-west highway will not benefit Maine.  Its primary use will be as a costly toll road for Canadian transport trucks heading to and from Canadian ports.  The toll proposed is $75 to cross Maine.  There will be few on and off ramps, other than to refueling stations or rail yards like Brownville Junction.  The stated intention is not for tourists or for Mainers.[2]  To reiterate, the highway would certainly result in pollution, negative environmental impact, and ongoing decrease of land values.  This alone impacts local economic viability, but also reduces Maine’s tourist appeal, a significant source of income for Mainers.  The environmental ramifications are huge and need to be considered with much greater detail, but to be brief, the construction of the highway over three major rivers, numerous watersheds, and through unbroken forestlands will irreparably damage this land that is the heart of Maine’s identity.

 

Fourth, the project will create few jobs, especially in comparison to jobs in social services that are facing cuts.  It is a private project that is Cianbro president, Peter Vigue’s brainchild.  It will be their project.  Cianbro regularly performs huge infrastructure projects all over New England and moves their workforce.[3]  We are not looking at new job creation beyond a small number of gas station service jobs.  If toll worker jobs are created, they will become obsolete due to automation within the next three years.[4]

 

Finally and critically, the highway exposes Maine to exploitation of raw resources by multinational corporations that provide few jobs, do not spend their profits in Maine, and do not pay taxes here.  Our land is our primary source of stable wealth and welfare.  To export raw materials like lumber, bulk water, and gravel is shortsighted and will devastate the future of our home.  To create a potential super-corridor for future pipelines, and high voltage transmission lines from industrial wind projects that scar our mountains, would irreversibly define Maine.

 

Please take a look at our website, where we are compiling as much information that we can on the east-west-highway project: www.defendingwater.net/maine/east-west-highway/

 

I sincerely appreciate your time and consideration.

 

With most genuine regards,

Chris Buchanan

grassroots organizer, Defending Water for Life in Maine

(207) 357-1443

chris@defendingwater.net

www.defendingwater.net/maine

 

 

Defending Water for Life in Maine is a project of the Alliance for Democracy.  Our mission is to protect water from commodification or privatization, because water is necessary for life, and should not be used for profit.

 

 


[1] http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/27/news/piscataquis/state-senator-pitches-east-west-highway-proposal/?ref=latest

[2] http://www.emdc.org/document_upload/CIANBRO%20Presentation.pdf

[4] primary source information from a Maine Turnpike Authority employee