South Portland Tar Sands Ban Enacted

Maine Public Broadcasting Network | July 22, 2014

The South Portland City Council has voted to ban the export of Canadian tar-sands crude through the city, effectively ending any attempt to bring the crude from western Canada through a pipeline into the city. While there are no such plans in the work, Portland Pipeline Corporation Vice-President Tom Hardison spoke against the proposal.

“I continue to be concerned about the clearly intended consequences the passage of this ordinance will have on the energy industry in South Portland and the industry’s ability to adapt to and meet the needs of a dynamic industry and the energy needs of the region and North America,” Hardison said.

Crude from the tar sands of western Canada is fueling a surge in North American production, but environmentalists say tar sands oil is difficult to clean if spilled and dangerous to ship.

“It’s an awesome accomplishment,” says Emily Figdor of Environment Maine. “It really gives me hope that other communities that also are dealing with serious local impacts from tar sands infrastructure can come together and similarly protect what is so dear to them.”

South Portland councilor Michael Pock was the only “no” vote, as he was two weeks ago. Opponents of the new ordinance say the referendum could hurt the city’s economic future, though the ordinance was crafted to allow existing petroleum handling in the city to continue.

An attorney for Portland Pipeline Corp., Matt Manahan, warned the ordinance would be found to be pre-empted by federal and state law. But Sean Mahoney of the Conservation Law Foundation challenged that and said his organization will support South Portland if the city faces suit to overturn the anti-tar-sands ordinance.

Opponents of the ordinance will have 20 days to collect some 900 signatures to force a vote on the ordinance.

 

In Stand Against Big Oil, Small Maine City Moves to Ban Tar Sands

Link to original article from Common Dreams.

Coastal Maine residents are pushing to formally prohibit tar sands from being shipped from their port

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Standing ovation for the South Portland Draft Ordinance Committee as it unveils plan to block tar sands Wednesday, June 25. (Photo: Environment Maine)

Residents of a small city in coastal Maine are pushing to formally ban Big Oil’s plans to pump tar sands through their community, and they’re pretty sure they’re going to win.

Over 200 people wearing matching sky-blue tee-shirts flooded a city council meeting in South Portland on Wednesday night to cheer a presentation on a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the bulk loading of crude oil—including tar sands—as well as new infrastructure for such purposes within city limits.

Backers of the legislation, known as the Clear Skies Ordinance, say tar sands transport through their city would devastate their waterfront, unleash toxic air pollution, and risk dangerous spills.

And they have reason to worry.

South Portland is the starting point for the 236-mile long “Portland-Montreal Pipeline” which is majority-owned by Exxon-Mobil. The pipeline is critical to move Canadian tar sands to a major port for loading on oil tankers for export. Canadian pipeline company Enbridgeappears to be moving forward with plans to pump tar sands, via their Canadian Line 9 pipeline, through New England to South Portland’s Casco Bay, where the oil would then be exported to global markets.

According to Environment Maine, the Portland-Montreal Pipeline is also central to the Energy East pipeline, proposed by Canadian company Transcanada, that would pump 1.1 million barrels of tar sands daily from Quebec to New Brunswick,

“The threat is not abstract,” said Taryn Hallweaver of Environment Maine in an interview with Common Dreams. “Tar sands oil will flow to Montreal as early as this summer for the first time ever, right at New England’s doorstep.”

Oil extracted from tar sands, also referred to as bitumen, is one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, producing up to five times more carbon than conventional crude oil. The extraction process is extremely energy-intensive and destructive to ecosystems and creates large reservoirs of dangerous waste.

The Clear Skies Ordinance to block tar sands emerged from a six-month-long public process launched by South Portland’s City Council. It was drafted by a committee of appointed land-use experts and is slated for further consideration by the city council and planning board, with a vote slated for late-July.

It follows the narrow defeat last year of a South Portland effort to block a future tar sands terminal after the oil industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign to squash the protective measure.

Robert Selling of Protect South Portland told Common Dreams that he is “extremely hopeful” that this ordinance. He emphasized that the draft ordinance was met with “enthusiastic response” and “standing ovations” at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I think it’s going to be a model for other communities,” he said.

Pipeline map Image courtesy of EcoWatch

 

While America Spars Over Keystone XL, A Vast Network of Pipelines is Quietly Being Approved

BY KATIE VALENTINE ON MARCH 20, 2014   ClimateProgress

After countless marches, arrests, Congressional votes, and editorials, the five-and-a-half year battle over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is nearing its end. If a recent ruling in Nebraska doesn’t delay the decision further, America could find out as soon as this spring whether or not the pipeline, which has become a focal point in America’s environmental movement, will be built.

But while critics and proponents of Keystone XL have sparred over the last few years, numerous pipelines — many of them slated to carry the same Canadian tar sands crude as Keystone — have been proposed, permitted, and even seen construction begin in the U.S. and Canada. Some rival Keystone XL in size and capacity; others, when linked up with existing and planned pipelines, would carry more oil than the 1,179-mile pipeline.

Read More: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/20/3254081/pipelines-you-havent-heard-of/#

 

New England on ‘High Alert’ After Canadian Pipeline Reversal Approved

Friday, March 7, 2014 by Common Dreams

The tar sands oil industry scored a regulatory victory on Thursday when the Canadian National Energy Board approved a plan by energy giant Enbridge to reverse the flow of Canada’s ‘Line 9’ oil pipeline eastward from Ontario to Montreal.

 

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/07-4

Pipeline rupture report raises questions about TransCanada inspections

Feb 04, 2014 10:29 PM ET
Amber Hildebrandt, CBC News

A CBC News investigation has unearthed a critical report that the federal regulator effectively buried for several years about a rupture on a trouble-prone TransCanada natural gas pipeline.

On July 20, 2009, the Peace River Mainline in northern Alberta exploded, sending 50-metre-tall flames into the air and razing a two-hectare wooded area.

Members of Dene Tha’ First Nations community of Chateh, about 50 kilometres away from the site of the blast, also want to know why the report was not released until now.(Courtesy of Dene Tha’ First Nation)

 

 

Few people ever learned of the rupture — one of the largest in the past decade — other than the Dene Tha’ First Nation, whose traditional territory it happened on.

Opinion: Enbridge Eyeing Maine

Many Mainers may not have heard of Enbridge, But they will. Enbridge is a gigantic energy company with it’s sights on Maine. Enbriidge wants to move oil to Casco Bay via the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line. The prospect of crude oil being piped to Portland has mobilized citizens in Maine and beyond to protest.

 

Read More: http://www.maineenvironews.com/Home/tabid/97/mid/628/newsid628/29475/Default.aspx

 

TransCanada pitches west-east pipeline

Proposed project would bring crude to refineries in Quebec, Saint John

Link to Article with Videos

CBC News | Apr 2, 2013 9:28 AM ET 

TransCanada Corp. is seeking firm financial commitments from companies seeking to ship crude oil from Western Canada to refineries in Eastern Canada.

The Calgary-based company announced on Tuesday morning a bidding process that will allow interested producers to make binding commitments for space on the pipeline. Companies will have from April 15 to June 17 to enter into long-term commitments to use the pipeline.

The open-season process follows a successful expression-of-interest phase and talks with potential shippers.

TransCanada said if the next phase is successful, it plans to start seeking regulatory approvals later in 2013, and the oil could start flowing to Eastern Canada by late 2017.

The proposal would be to convert 3,000 kilometres of the company’s natural gas pipelines to allow for crude oil to be transported. The company would also be looking at building 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline from Quebec into Saint John.

The pipeline could carry between 500,000 and 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the eastern refineries, according to the company.

Premier David Alward called the west-east pipeline proposal an historic initiative. Alward made the comments in front of the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Tuesday.Premier David Alward called the west-east pipeline proposal an historic initiative. Alward made the comments in front of the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Tuesday. (Robert Jones/CBC)

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Tuesday TransCanada’s announcement was a “positive step.”

“We welcome such proposals, because they can generate thousands of Canadian jobs and long-term economic prosperity — particularly in Quebec and the Maritimes — for generations to come,” Oliver said.

The federal minister said the proposed pipeline project must meet a series of regulatory reviews.

If the project moves forward, Oliver said it would be an important piece of energy infrastructure for Canada.

“Pipelines moving oil from Alberta to Quebec to New Brunswick would be among the most expansive and ambitious stretches of energy infrastructure in the entire world and would contribute to the energy security of Canada and all of North America,” he said.

Officials from the Saint John-based Irving Oil Ltd. have said in the past their refinery could handle western crude oil.

The Irving Oil refinery is the largest in Canada and can process 300,000 barrels of oil per day. Saint John also has a deep-water port and a liquefied natural gas facility.

Oliver said he has recently toured the Irving refinery and the Ultramar refinery in Levis. The federal minister said he plans to tour Suncor’s refinery in Montreal in the coming weeks.

3 days in Alberta

New Brunswick Premier David Alward responded to TransCanada’s announcement on Tuesday morning during a news conference held at the Irving Oil headquarters, calling it an “encouraging step forward.”

The New Brunswick premier said the pipeline proposal is a “historic initiative” for both the province and the country.

“We envision New Brunswick as Canada’s next energy powerhouse and Saint John as the anchor of that powerhouse,” Alward said in front of more than 30 Irving Oil employees.

“If we proceed, this project will strengthen our national and provincial economies and create jobs and economic growth today and for generations to come,” he said, suggesting the project has the potential to be as important to Canada’s economic future as the railway was in the past.

Alward said the pipeline will create high-paying jobs in New Brunswick and will keep workers in the province instead of heading to western Canada to find employment in the oilsands.

“I want to see the day when the mother or father, the son or daughter leave their New Brunswick home in the morning to go to work in the development of natural resources, they will return for dinner that night, not three or four weeks later,” he said.

Alward spent three days in Alberta in February talking to Alberta Premier Alison Redford and oil executives about the possibility of the west-to-east pipeline.

The project has the possibility of creating 2,000 jobs during the construction phase of the pipeline and a few hundred refining jobs after, according to some estimates.

Alberta has been interested in the project, because oil from that province is now being shipped to the United States, where there is a glut. That means oil producers are getting $20 to $40 less per barrel than the world price.

Those lower prices translate into lower royalties for the provincial government, and that is causing a potential multi-billion dollar deficit in Alberta. A pipeline to the Irving Oil refinery would allow Alberta producers to charge the higher world price.

A new pipeline would also alleviate Canada’s dependence on foreign oil and increase the value of Canada’s crude oil through shipping to world markets from the deep-water port of Saint John, said Alward.

Port Saint John president and CEO Jim Quinn welcomed the prospect of playing an integral role in bringing Canadian crude to global markets.

“This opportunity for Saint John and our port is phenomenal,” Quinn said in a statement.

The port, which for 50 years has been handling petroleum cargo for both import and export, currently handles the largest oil tankers in the world, as well as the largest crude carriers, he said.

TransCanada Corp. may build 1,400 kilometres of pipeline, extending its capacity into Saint John. TransCanada Corp. may build 1,400 kilometres of pipeline, extending its capacity into Saint John. (Courtest of TransCanada)

The Tar Sands Disaster

By THOMAS HOMER-DIXON | March 31, 2013 | NYTimes.com

Link to Article

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WATERLOO, Ontario

Rick Froberg

 

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IF President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he’ll do Canada a favor.

Canada’s tar sands formations, landlocked in northern Alberta, are a giant reserve of carbon-saturated energy — a mixture of sand, clay and a viscous low-grade petroleum called bitumen. Pipelines are the best way to get this resource to market, but existing pipelines to the United States are almost full. So tar sands companies, and the Alberta and Canadian governments, are desperately searching for export routes via new pipelines.

Canadians don’t universally support construction of the pipeline. A poll by Nanos Research in February 2012 found that nearly 42 percent of Canadians were opposed. Many of us, in fact, want to see the tar sands industry wound down and eventually stopped, even though it pumps tens of billions of dollars annually into our economy.

The most obvious reason is that tar sands production is one of the world’s most environmentally damaging activities. It wrecks vast areas of boreal forest through surface mining and subsurface production. It sucks up huge quantities of water from local rivers, turns it into toxic waste and dumps the contaminated water into tailing ponds that now cover nearly 70 square miles.

Also, bitumen is junk energy. A joule, or unit of energy, invested in extracting and processing bitumen returns only four to six joules in the form of crude oil. In contrast, conventional oil production in North America returns about 15 joules. Because almost all of the input energy in tar sands production comes from fossil fuels, the process generates significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production.

There is a less obvious but no less important reason many Canadians want the industry stopped: it is relentlessly twisting our society into something we don’t like. Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state.

Countries with huge reserves of valuable natural resources often suffer from economic imbalances and boom-bust cycles. They also tend to have low-innovation economies, because lucrative resource extraction makes them fat and happy, at least when resource prices are high.

Canada is true to type. When demand for tar sands energy was strong in recent years, investment in Alberta surged. But that demand also lifted the Canadian dollar, which hurt export-oriented manufacturing in Ontario, Canada’s industrial heartland. Then, as the export price of Canadian heavy crude softened in late 2012 and early 2013, the country’s economy stalled.

Canada’s record on technical innovation, except in resource extraction, is notoriously poor. Capital and talent flow to the tar sands, while investments in manufacturing productivity and high technology elsewhere languish.

But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics.

The current Conservative government holds a large majority of seats in Parliament but was elected in 2011 with only 40 percent of the vote, because three other parties split the center and left vote. The Conservative base is Alberta, the province from which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many of his allies hail. As a result, Alberta has extraordinary clout in federal politics, and tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet.

Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign.

The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.

This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry.

President Obama rejected the pipeline last year but now must decide whether to approve a new proposal from TransCanada, the pipeline company. Saying no won’t stop tar sands development by itself, because producers are busy looking for other export routes — west across the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, east to Quebec, or south by rail to the United States. Each alternative faces political, technical or economic challenges as opponents fight to make the industry unviable.

Mr. Obama must do what’s best for America. But stopping Keystone XL would be a major step toward stopping large-scale environmental destruction, the distortion of Canada’s economy and the erosion of its democracy.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, who teaches global governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is the author of “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization.”

Workers removing oil from cars after train derails near Penobscot River

By Nok-Noi Ricker and Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff | March 07, 2013

Link to Article and Video

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — Emergency workers will be handling crude oil a few yards from the Penobscot River overnight Thursday after 13 full 31,000-gallon train tanker cars derailed and tipped over, spilling just 3 gallons, officials said.

The Pan Am Railways tanker cars, which were among 15 that derailed on the 96-car train, went off the tracks near Route 2 and the Winn town line about 5 a.m. Thursday. No injuries were reported. Thirteen of the 15 cars tipped over but none ruptured, said Pan Am Railways Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano.

Scarano described the oil spill as that which typically accumulates around the two hatches atop the tank when tanks are filled or emptied. About a gallon of oil came from three overturned tankers, Mattawamkeag Fire Chief Robert Powers said.

“Three gallons — that’s amazing [when you] have the cars laying on their sides, a couple of them in trees,” Powers said. “They’ve built the rail cars to sustain derailment. We are very thankful that that’s where we are at right now.”

Maine Department of Environmental Protection crews and a private contractor will be working with Pan Am to transfer oil from the 13 tankers to 20 smaller tankers. The work likely will continue for two or three days, said department spokeswoman Samantha Warren, who said the spill could have been “disastrous.”

Workers emptied the first car at about 9:15 p.m. The offloading went well, but the work “will be delicate,” she said.

“There are still hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil in derailed cars within sight of the Penobscot River,” Warren added, joining a chorus of voices from the state Legislature and environmentalist community that called the accident’s lack of environmental damage a miracle.

Scarano said a severe leak into the river was never very likely. The train was on a stretch of track from Waterville to Canada that is rated Class 1, which means suitable for traffic moving no faster than 10 mph.

The Federal Railroad Administration investigation of the accident is continuing, but it appears that the train was moving no faster than the speed limit. Firefighters said train workers told them it was traveling 8 mph when the derailment occurred.

A slow speed would be logical, Scarano said, given that the train was approaching a switch in town. Its cargo was to be transferred to New Brunswick Southern Railway for eventual arrival at a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. She said the train had three engines pulling it.

The tankers were filled in the Baaken oil fields in North Dakota, and were heading to Canada.

The accident occurred just west of 10 Main St. in what is almost the backyard of Dave Markie and his family, but didn’t wake them, Markie said. He and several other residents said that trains go through the area often and minor train derailments, in which cars leave the tracks but don’t tip over, are common occurrences.

“All I heard was the [train] engines running,” Markie said.

Emergency workers gathered along Route 2 and in Markie’s long driveway, just south of Markie’s Garage, for most of the day. A freight engine pulling three freight cars was stopped along the track about a half-mile south of the scene. A long line of tanker cars, possibly to be used for oil transfers, replaced the engine just before dusk.

Maine Department of Transportation crews came to help Federal Railroad Administration investigators determine the accident’s cause, DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said.

“We will follow their lead,” Talbot said. “We are trying to, if we can, identify what went wrong based on what we are seeing now. When the tankers are turned upright and able to move, we will take a second look to see what went wrong.”

An FRA investigator at the scene declined to comment.

This is the second time in less than a year that a Pam Am derailment threatened the Penobscot River, Warren said. Four cars derailed, with two going into the river, near the Bucksport-Orrington town line last May. The cars carried nonhazardous clay slurry used in papermaking.

Trains pulling tankers north to Canada have become a much more common sight along this rail line in the past year as oil drilling operations in the Northwest increase shipments into Canada and overseas, several residents said.

Of the more than 220 million gallons of oil that crossed Maine in 2012, Pan Am hauled about 105 million gallons, Scarano said. Pan Am has 900 workers in the U.S. Northeast and expects to hire 35 to 40 new train/engine crews this year, she said.

Mattawamkeag resident Timothy Coombs said he wasn’t surprised at the accident. The track’s recent heavy use, often punishing weather conditions and the track’s degraded condition along some stretches made the accident inevitable, residents said.

“It is just something that happens all the time,” Coombs said. “They usually don’t lay on their sides like they did today, but it happens down here four or five times a summer. They usually just derail.”

Scarano said the track was in excellent condition for a Class 1 line, though Class 1 is the slowest-speed track. A Class 5 track can handle 79 mph traffic. The Mattawamkeag stretch of tracks is rated Class 1 more for its use than condition, Scarano said.

Federal Railroad Administration workers inspected the track last fall and found no significant defects, Scarano said. Pan Am, which typically inspects its tracks at least once a week, inspects the Mattawamkeag-area tracks four times a week, she said.

Pan Am does regular maintenance and upgrades on its rail lines and “did a big project from Mattawamkeag south replacing ties” and other repairs recently, Scarano said.

Once the tipped tanks are emptied, Pan Am will use large cranes to right the tanker cars if possible, Scarano said.

Maine DEP will observe the oil transfer and other work overnight and Friday. A heated tent has been set up for emergency workers, Warren said. DEP handles about 3,000 oil and hazardous chemical spills annually.

“This still remains a very active emergency response,” Warren said. “We still have a ways to go, but we are optimistic that the recovery effort will proceed as things have thus far, with no apparent environmental damage.”

“I think it is incredibly fortunate,” Warren said, “that we measured the amount of discharge in drops instead of hundreds of thousands of gallons.”

CORRECTION:

A previous version of this story said the derailment occurred in Winn. The derailment occurred in Mattawamkeag near the Winn line. Incorrect information was provided to the BDN.