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.


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.

The Tar Sands Disaster

By THOMAS HOMER-DIXON | March 31, 2013 |

Link to Article



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.”

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

As trains start to carry crude oil across Maine, environmentalists start to worry

Pan Am Railways and Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways are both exploring the feasibility of moving vast amounts of crude to an Irving Oil refinery in St. John, New Brunswick. Pan Am’s rail network was used to successfully deliver the first shipment of 100-plus tanker cars in late May, and MMA reportedly plans to follow suit soon.

Posted June 10, 2012  by Kevin Miller

The modern-day oil boom in the western U.S. and Canada is fueling interest in shipping crude oil by rail across Maine to a refinery in the Maritimes.

But the prospect of long trains of oil-filled tanker cars rumbling through Maine also has state environmental officials concerned, particularly in the wake of a recent derailment that sent several tanker cars of nonhazardous materials tumbling into the Penobscot River. As a result, state officials are reviewing their spill response strategies and making other preparations.

“It definitely got my attention with 104 rail cars of crude coming through the state,” Barbara Parker, head of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s hazardous materials response team, said in reference to a recent oil shipment.

Pan Am Railways and Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways are both exploring the feasibility of moving vast amounts of crude to an Irving Oil refinery in St. John, New Brunswick. Pan Am’s rail network was used to successfully deliver the first shipment of 100-plus tanker cars in late May, and MMA reportedly plans to follow suit soon.

The shipments are viewed as a potential financial windfall for railroads battling to maintain shipping volume. And for Irving, it is a chance for the New Brunswick-based refinery to tap into the massive amounts of oil flowing from wells in North Dakota and the controversial tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president at Pan Am, said changes in the energy market have sharply decreased the tonnage of coal carried by the railway elsewhere on its network. So in order to achieve the shipping volume needed to remain profitable and maintain its work force, Pan Am is shifting its gaze from coal to oil.

“Pan Am is currently trying to expand its shipping base and there are a lot of new products that we are looking at, crude [oil] being one of them,” Scarano said. The expansions could allow Pan Am to add several additional 15-person crews, she said.

Irving officials did not return calls seeking comment, and an MMA representative declined to discuss the potential crude shipments.

Trains hauling potential pollutants and hazardous materials regularly rumble across Maine, unbeknownst to or unnoticed by many people and nearly always without incident. And federal interstate commerce laws protect those shipments from possible disruption whether by individuals, organizations or local governments opposed to the materials.

“That’s why it is interstate commerce,” said Nathan Moulton, director of the Maine Department of Transportation’s rail division. “If it wasn’t, you would have a town that would stop [the shipment] and you’d never be able to get anything from A to Z.”

Because it is a natural product, crude oil, or oil that has not yet been refined, is not technically considered a hazardous material. But due to its hazardous components and potential to cause long-lasting environmental damage when spilled, crude and other oils are strictly regulated and require specially trained response teams. And crude oil spills must be reported to the state.

Rail industry groups point out that shipping dangerous and hazardous materials by rail is the safest route — with 99.997 percent of hazmat delivered in 2009 without a release caused by a train accident, according to the Association of American Railroads. Rail accidents involving hazardous materials are down by 90 percent since 1980, the association said.

For that reason, rail is often the only allowable means of transportation under federal law for some of the most dangerous materials, such as chlorine and other chemicals that can be deadly when vaporized. As so-called “common carriers,” larger railroads also are prohibited from refusing to carry hazardous materials.

But as last month’s Pan Am derailment in Bucksport shows, train accidents do happen. And while the vast majority of accidents cause little more than a disruption to rail traffic, state environmental officials are taking an interest in what the shipments of large amounts of unrefined oil could mean to Maine.

“The transportation of crude oil across rail lines is a concern because many times, rail lines are very close to sensitive water bodies,” said Scott Whittier, director of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s oil and hazardous waste facilities division. “So it does present a potential threat that we need to prepare for.”

Those preparations include ensuring both DEP staff and other agencies are trained to respond to large oil spills along rail lines. DEP staffers are already trained to handle spills from the sea-going tankers and pipelines that feed or leave Portland, the second-largest oil import terminal on the East Coast. The department also is reviewing the solvency of a state oil spill response fund paid for with a fee charged on every barrel of any type of oil imported into Maine.

Parker, who is director of the DEP’s division of response services, said department staff regularly handle oil spills due to Maine’s reliance on heating oil. DEP staff also spent several weeks on the Gulf Coast helping with the response to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

But the so-called “tar sands oil” from Alberta is much heavier and grittier than conventional crude.

“So we have been looking at that,” Parker said. “It would be a different type of response than the lighter crude coming out of North Dakota.”

The Federal Railroad Administration’s online database of railway safety information does not contain specific data for accidents involving oil spills but does show accidents involving hazardous materials. And those statistics show that the nation’s railroads transport hazardous materials with relatively few incidents.

Nationwide in 2011, 664 hazmat cars derailed or were damaged and just 66 of those cars released materials, according to federal rail safety reports. That is on a network of railroads that logged nearly 730 million miles that year.

Since 2002, Pan Am has reported two hazmat releases from cars operating throughout their territory while MMA has reported three.

The May 29 train derailment that sent several Pan Am tanker cars over an embankment in Bucksport and into the Penobscot River was not a major incident by environmental standards, although it was a logistical challenge to clean up.

It is now believed that less than 1,000 gallons of a nonhazardous, synthetic latex chemical as well as some clay slurry leaked into the Penobscot River, home to the only sizable spawning run of Atlantic salmon left in the United States and other endangered species.

But had the three diesel-powered locomotives riding immediately in front of the derailed cars gone into the river — or had the tankers been carrying less benign chemicals, as many trains in Maine do — the situation could have been far worse. The locomotives, for instance, can each carry thousands of gallons of diesel.

“We are extremely fortunate that this was not a hazardous material or an oil spill,” Samantha DePoy-Warren, a DEP spokeswoman, said several days after the incident.

Derailments are, unfortunately, simply a part of business for railroads — always have been and always will be, absent major technological changes. Trains “jump tracks” for myriad reasons.

Metal rails crack, split or buckle. Heavy rains or floods wash out the underlying gravel or cause the wooden ties to shift. Couplers linking cars together fail or are improperly adjusted. And a conductor who drives the locomotive too fast, brakes too abruptly or causes the train to lurch can easily trigger a derailment.

There were six derailments in Maine last year and five in 2010 that were serious enough to require reporting to the Federal Railroad Administration, the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that oversees rail safety and enforcement. But figures fluctuate from year to year, ranging from 11 derailments reported in 2006 to just four two years later.

The majority of derailments in Maine happen on lines operated by Pan Am and Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, respectively the largest and second-largest rail shippers in the state. The vast majority of derailments were relatively minor incidents without spills or injuries, but others were more problematic.

In April 2006, for instance, three Pan Am cars loaded down with paper jumped the rails in Bangor and tipped into the Penobscot. The contents of some of the cars later caught fire when crews attempted to cut open and empty them. As a result, enormous piles of soggy paper that came to be known locally as “spitball mountain” sat on the banks of the Penobscot for months and resulted in paper waste drifting downstream.

The Federal Railroad Administration collects reams of safety and accident-related data. Comparing companies’ safety records is difficult, however, because of the diversity in the industry.

For example, two railroads may each report hauling freight over 1 million miles in a year. But the federal data would not differentiate between the complexity of the company’s operations that would affect the likelihood of an incident, such as one company hauling 5-car trains and the other hauling trains with 100 cars.

In 2011, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic had a train accident rate of 10 accidents per million train miles throughout the company’s network, compared with a rate of 3.7 at Pan Am and a national average of 2.8 accidents per million train miles.

Over the past decade, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic has consistently had higher accident rates than Pan Am. But MMA president Robert Grindrod said the way the federal agency calculates accident rates — by per million train miles — inflates his company’s numbers because their trains only traveled 200,000 miles last year. So if MMA only had one reportable accident it would show up as five under the per-million-miles measurement, he said.

Instead, Grindrod pointed to the fact that MMA has not had any reportable accidents on its main line during the past three years. Both of MMA’s derailments last year happened in rail yards.

“It isn’t a problem,” Grindrod said of hauling potentially hazardous substances. “We follow very rigorous safety procedures regarding our track, regarding our trains and regarding the materials within our trains.”

Representatives at both the Federal Railroad Administration and the Maine Department of Transportation — which oversees rail to a much lesser extent than the federal government — declined to comment on individual companies’ safety records.

Rob Kulat, spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington, D.C., said his agency only enforces the laws and does not speculate on companies’ safety records.

Although the federal agency does conduct its own track inspections, the vast majority of that responsibility is left to the railroads themselves.

“The primary duty of FRA’s 90 federal track safety inspectors, along with 30 certified state inspectors, is to strategically monitor track conditions to determine whether a railroad is complying with federal safety standards,” states a fact sheet from the agency.

Federal rules require most mainline tracks to be inspected weekly and sometimes two or three times a week if the track is rated to carry passengers or freight at higher speeds. But railroads also can change their class or speed rating without receiving approval from or even notifying the Federal Railroad Administration.

Kulat said track inspection reports from individual railroads are available to the public but must be requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a process that typically takes several weeks.

Inspections are most commonly performed by railroad company crews that ride the rails in specially designed pickup trucks. Federal regulators, in addition to doing their own periodic inspections, use the company reports to perform inspection audits.

Scarano, the executive vice president at Pan Am, said that in addition to the weekly inspections by crews on trucks, her company checks each stretch of track at least twice a year using a machine that essentially x-rays the rails for structural defects.

“At Pan Am, safety is our No. 1 priority,” Scarano said.

Nevertheless, accidents still happen.

Track conditions have been the primary cause of 13 of Pan Am’s 20 federally reported derailments since 2006, according to data contained on the Federal Rail Administration safety website. The most frequent track problems involved broken rails, misaligned tracks or switch problems, according to federal documents.

Track conditions were the primary cause of 10 of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic’s 19 derailments during that time.

Railroads also are required to submit detailed reports to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on spills or other incidents that occur anywhere on the company’s property, whether on the tracks or in the railyard.

Pan Am Railways is subjected to additional reporting scrutiny following an August 2007 incident at the company’s Rigby Yard in South Portland that also garnered the company a $475,000 fine.

According to the DEP, a substantial amount of oil emanating from the rail yard operated by Portland Terminal Company — a Pan Am subsidiary — contaminated the city’s stormwater system and Calvary Pond. The spills, which were believed to have taken place over time, presented a threat to groundwater and other local water bodies, the department stated.

A subsequent consent agreement negotiated between the DEP and Pan Am required the railroad to put down absorbent “track mats” in areas where locomotives were parked, idled, fueled or serviced. The agreement also put additional pressure on Pan Am to immediately report — and begin to clean — any spilled oil.

Since then, Pan Am has reported roughly 300 spills of lube oil, hydraulic oil or other types of oil to the DEP, the overwhelming majority of which involve quantities of one gallon or less, and sometimes as little as one one-hundredth of a gallon. In 2010, however, a ruptured fuel tank on a derailed locomotive leaked 2,800 gallons of diesel in the railroad’s Waterville railyard.

Pan Am’s Scarano pointed out that most of what is reported are equipment leaks or spills rather than tanker spills. She declined to comment specifically on any changes in company practices since the Rigby Yard case or on a 2006 diesel spill at a Massachusetts railyard that resulted in a judge levying a $500,000 criminal fine against the company.

“We work closely with the agencies,” Scarano said. “We notify them … and we take it very seriously.”

Looking ahead to the possibility of additional crude coming through Maine by rail, DEP staff said the shipments could be a positive development, benefiting the railroads as well as other industries.

“But we definitely need to be prepared,” said Parker with the DEP’s hazmat team.

A northbound log-laden train of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad went off the tracks in Wallagrass in 2005. Two cars were off the rails, and railroad ties and rails were moved up to six feet at a junction in the tracks.

Beurmond Banville | BDN
A northbound log-laden train of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad went off the tracks in Wallagrass in 2005. Two cars were off the rails, and railroad ties and rails were moved up to six feet at a junction in the tracks.

This fractured &quotfrog" on Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway could be seen in front of one of the railway's trains as it made a stop to pick up more freight in Masardis in 2010. A frog is a railway switch that enables trains to move from one track to another at a railway junction.

This fractured “frog” on Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway could be seen in front of one of the railway’s trains as it made a stop to pick up more freight in Masardis in 2010. A frog is a railway switch that enables trains to move from one track to another at a railway junction.

The front window of Engine 21 frames a view of the tracks as the train approaches Squapan Lake in Township 11 Range 4 in 2010.

The front window of Engine 21 frames a view of the tracks as the train approaches Squapan Lake in Township 11 Range 4 in 2010.

A Pan Am train idles near the intersection of the Quarry and River Roads in Orrington Saturday, March 24, 2012 as Pan Am rail workers repair part of the washed out line with new gravel fill.

A Pan Am train idles near the intersection of the Quarry and River Roads in Orrington Saturday, March 24, 2012 as Pan Am rail workers repair part of the washed out line with new gravel fill.

Train Hauling Oil Crosses Maine

Crude oil from the West has begun moving across Maine — not by pipeline, as some environmental activists fear it will someday; but by railroad.

Posted on May 30, 2012   by Tux Turkel

A train carrying 104 tank cars of crude from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota came through Maine last weekend on a 2,435-mile journey to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. It rolled through Portland, Waterville and Bangor on Pan Am Railways tracks, on its way to Canada’s largest oil refinery.

This so-called unit train — made up only of oil tank cars — is an example of how Irving and other energy giants are reacting to a fast-changing North American petroleum market, and how Maine figures into the developments.

“I think we’re going to be seeing more of this,” said Tom Hall, a former assistant general manager for Pan Am Railways in Maine.

New technologies and high global oil prices have made it economical for energy companies to develop mammoth petroleum reserves in North Dakota, as well as the Canadian province of Alberta. The challenge is getting all the oil to refineries across North America.

The easy-to-refine oil in North Dakota is locked up in shale formations and is released by injecting pressurized water and chemicals, a process called fracking. In Alberta, a similar process is used to free heavy, tar-like oil located in sand formations. Both methods are under fire, in part because they can pollute groundwater.

Growing controversies and delays in building new pipelines or reversing the flow of existing ones to move this oil, are threatening production goals and export plans. That has created an unexpected opportunity for railroads, which see a void. They’re building loading facilities and adding tank cars to compete with pipelines for a piece of the evolving business.

Maine’s freight railroads stand to benefit as well. They’re upgrading service to handle an expected increase in traffic to Saint John.

The first big shipment was made over the weekend. Each of the 104 cars carried roughly 700 barrels of oil. The train traveled through Chicago to Rotterdam Junction, N.Y., where it moved over Pan Am Railways track through southern and eastern Maine and connected with the New Brunswick Southern Railway for the trip to Saint John.

The train was photographed as it crossed the Merrimack River in Massachusetts by Kevin Burkholder, the editor of Eastern Railroad News.

“Deemed a test train, this is the first of what could be a steady flow of the rolling crude oil pipeline to feed the Irving refinery,” Burkholder wrote last weekend in his newsletter.

Pan Am has been improving its tracks and adding locomotives and crews, making it a player in the growing crude-oil competition, according to Hall.

Pan Am operates one of three possible rail routes that can get crude to Saint John. Canadian National Railroad has another, which skirts Aroostook County and stays north of Maine. A third goes through Jackman, Greenville and Brownville Junction to reach New Brunswick via the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway.

“Irving’s going to go with whoever does the best job at the best price,” Hall said.

The prospect of steady oil shipments has led Montreal, Maine and Atlantic to announce that it will double the frequency of its service from three to six days a week between Montreal and Brownville Junction. The new schedule will begin after a strike at Canadian Pacific is resolved, according to Ed Burkhardt, MMA’s board chairman.

Price is driving Irving’s thirst for Bakken oil, Burkhardt said. Irving’s refinery, which has a capacity of 250,000 barrels a day, primarily receives its supply via tankers from Venezuela, the Persian Gulf and the North Sea. However, overseas oil now is roughly $20 a barrel more expensive, so it’s cost-effective to move some of the supply thousands of miles by rail.

“Rail can land oil at Saint John at a better price than by sea,” Burkhardt said.

The most immediate factor that could limit business is the availability of tank cars, which are in great demand nationally, Burkhardt and others say. It takes roughly six days to go from North Dakota to New Brunswick, plus offloading time.

If rail delivery grows, it could help Maine’s struggling freight railroads and the shippers that depend on them, according to Chop Hardenbergh, editor of Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports. That could help improve service to Maine’s paper mills and attract new shippers, he said.

“It certainly helps our railroads and our overall economy,” Hardenbergh said.

Commerce aside, the trend has caught some of Maine’s environmental activists by surprise. They oppose the methods used to extract this petroleum — especially the so-called tar sands oil from Alberta — saying they are highly polluting.

In Maine, activists suspect that the Portland Pipeline Corp. will want to reverse the flow of its system, which moves crude oil west from Portland Harbor to Montreal, to send tar-sands oil east. The company has said it has no current plans to do that.

Environmental activists oppose tar-sands oil for two main reasons. They say the more-corrosive nature of the oil poses a greater risk of pipeline ruptures, and they point to a large spill in Michigan in 2010 as evidence.

Spills appear to be less of an issue with rail transport, however. Tank cars are typically double-lined and made of hardened steel to survive a derailment.

However, staff members at the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine both say fracking and tar-sand extractions are unsustainable, dirty technologies, whether the product is moved by rail or pipeline.

“We don’t want to see that supported in any way,” said Glen Brand, a spokesman for the Sierra Club. “We don’t want to see it moved to market.”

Small quantities of tar-sands oil already have rolled across Maine.

Bob Grindrod, president of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said his line handled a small, test delivery destined for the Irving refinery a few months ago. The potential to move more depends on the cost and how hard it is for Irving to refine the thick oil, he said.

Irving Oil rarely discusses its business practices, and it didn’t respond to email questions from the newspaper; but Grindrod said he’s aware that the refinery is ramping up its crude offloading capacity from two cars a day to 100 cars, whether it comes from the Canadian tar sands or the Bakken field.

“They are investing rather heavily,” he said.

NEB bars citizens from hearing

OIL PIPELINE: Protesters disrupt proceedings in London, Ontario

May 23, 2012  by Jonathan Sher

“We’re fed up with this,” said one native woman. She said her name is Yagotala and that she’s part of the Mohawk Nation. “The government isn’t listening.”

Members of Six Nations and Occupy London voiced their concerns about a request by Enbridge to reverse the flow of oil in a London area pipeline so it travels west to east, from Sarnia to Westover, near Hamilton.

Spooked by native and Occupy protests, the National Energy Board has barred citizens from a hearing that could remove obstacles to bringing oil to Southwestern Ontario from Alberta’s oil sands.

“It is unfortunate today that we have to take this step,” board chair Roland George said Wednesday. “(Protesters) have not shown respect and caused serious concerns about the safety of those in attendance.”

Only media and groups that applied earlier to intervene in the issue will be allowed in the hearing room Thursday at Hilton London — others can only tune in to a live webcast.

Earlier Wednesday, moments before pipeline giant Enbridge was to speak to the board, protesters brought the hearing to a halt, rising to their feet, a leader bellowing out at the injustices and others repeating phrases as if at a revival.

Board members fled the room as members of the Haudenosaunee First Nation decried what they called an intrusion on their lands and treaty rights.


“Mic check!
The people here
believe the NEB hearings
are illegitimate,
and undemocratic.
Although we respect the efforts
of organizations at this hearing
that are raising concerns
about environmental threats
and Indigenous treaty violations.
We are here to challenge Enbridge,
the National Energy Board,
and the Conservative government.
The federal government
can completely overrule
the decision made here.
You are also failing to consider
the impacts of tar sands expansion
and all the treaties being breached
by this proposed pipeline reversal.
This project cannot go forward
without the free,
and informed consent
of the Haudenosaunee,
who would be directly
impacted by a pipeline rupture.
So, the official hearing is now over
until your request
has been approved by HDI
The Haudenosaunee Development Institute
and we would now like to commence
The People’s Hearing
with statements from the Haudenosaunee themselves.”

“We’re fed up with this,” said one native woman. She said her name is Yagotala and that she’s part of the Mohawk Nation. “The government isn’t listening.”

A board official, with police backing him, ordered the room cleared and nearly all left without incident — one woman was arrested.

The hearing resumed later with police monitoring who could enter the room.

First to speak was Enbridge, which wants to reverse the flow of oil in a pipeline in London’s backyard so it moves from west to east, from Sarnia to Westover near Hamilton.

Less reliable oil from overseas can be replaced by Alberta crude, said Enbridge lawyer Douglas Crowther. “This will benefit shippers, producers and the broader Canadian public interest,” he told the energy board.

He disputes claims by environmentalists, who point to a rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan two years ago and say Londoners should be alarmed because the pipeline crosses under the Thames River just north of the city.

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation argued Enbridge had done far too little to establish the changes it plans are safe for the environment or respectful of treaty rights.

There’s been no oil in the pipeline this year and a trickle last year, so Enbridge must show if increased flow will denigrate the air, water and soil, Aamjiwnaang lawyer Scott Smith told the board.

Then the company must share findings with, and seek input from, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, he said.

Instead, Enbridge has only studied some of the changes and addition to its infrastructure, he said.

Environmentalists fear Enbridge’s push to reverse the flow of oil near London is the first step toward moving oil to the U.S. east coast, a move that could speed oilsands production and degrade the global environment.

Some environmental groups will make their case Thursday.

Margaret Vance, president of the Ontario Pipeline Landowners Association, has immediate concerns: the pipeline is within two kilometres of her farm north of Woodstock. “I don’t want to walk out on our backyard and see a field of oil.”

Native protesters shut down Enbridge hearing in Ontario

Led by Six Nations community members, Enbridge Line 9 hearings disrupted, shut down for half a day.

May 23, 2012

LONDON, Ontario — Dozens of environmental justice activists led by Indigenous activists from Haudenosaunee successfully “mic checked” a stop to Enbridge Line 9 hearings in London early Wednesday morning. Members of the National Energy Board had traveled to London to hear presentations from major oil conglomerates as well as environmental NGOs. After successfully disrupting meeting, Haudenosaunee representatives explained that they had not been consulted about the pipeline plans, which would negatively impact their lands.


“We are not only fighting for our rights but yours too,” said grandmother and long time Indigenous activist Ruby Montour, after members of the board and lawyers from the oil companies left the presentation room. “They need to be fair with our people, with you, your ancestors and your children. The environment is going to pay big time if these pipelines rupture and they need to listen to our concerns. They need to speak to us, the real people who need to be spoken to, whose treaties have been broken. They forced us to go to school, they forced us to learn, and we learned so now we know when they are lying or cheating. Well, they can’t anymore. They can’t force things on our lands.”

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. is proposing the Line 9 Trailbreaker Pipeline to transport tar sands oil through some of the most important natural and cultural landscapes in eastern Canada.  Under the plan, Enbridge would pump corrosive tar sands oil – the dirtiest oil on the planet – through a pipeline that was built in 1975. Enbridge has taken the first step to implement this plan by recently filing a permit application with Canada’s National Energy Board.

“This project cannot go forward without the free, prior and informed consent of the Haudenosaunee who would be directly impacted by a pipeline rupture,” said Metis activist Sakihitowin Awasis who led the mic check that was repeated by over two dozen activists in the room. The Mic Check continued: “The people believe the NEB hearings are illegitimate, inaccessible and undemocratic”

“Pipelines have been stalled or stopped going westward through British Columbia, southwards through Texas (the Keystone XL) and are now being pushed eastward through Ontario. It will be met with similar resistance,” said organizer Toban Black outside the five star Hilton Hotel after the meeting was recessed.

Awasis was arrested by London police, held for over an hour and released with a trespass ticket.

The National Energy Board public hearing was shut down for half the day, after which only the press and the official intervenors were allowed to re-enter. After submissions from intervenors inside the room, the Board ruled that members of the public could re-enter if the intervenors vouched that the people coming in would not be disruptive.

Activists stayed outside and organized a People’s Hearing where statements were read by those gathered and others who had submitted their statements online .

Enbridge wants to pipe tarsands oil to Montreal

The $100-million Line 9B reversal is expected to be available for service in early 2014, assuming it gets National Energy Board approval.

Posted on May 18, 2012   by Michelle Lalonde

MONTREAL – Now that Enbridge Inc. has announced its intention to pipe oil from Alberta’s oilsands projects not just through Ontario, as previously announced, but all the way to Montreal, Quebec environmental groups are demanding a National Energy Board assessment of the overall project.



Public hearings into the company’s project to reverse the flow of crude oil between Sarnia, Ont., and North Westover Station near Cambridge, Ont. are to begin in London, Ont., next week. But this week, the company announced it will be also be asking the National Energy Board to approve a project to reverse the flow in existing pipelines to get oilsands oil from Ontario to Montreal.

Quebec environmental groups sounded the alarm last August that Enbridge was reviving piece by piece its controversial Trailbreaker project, abandoned in 2009 due to a poor economic climate. That project proposed to reverse the flow direction in existing pipelines that have traditionally brought foreign oil from Portland, Maine, up to Montreal and west to Ontario refineries. The idea with Trailbreaker was to allow the same pipelines to bring Alberta oil east to Montreal, and then south.

Enbridge says the Trailbreaker project is still dead, but the company wants to reverse the flow in its Westover-to-Montreal pipeline because it now has long-term commitments from the Suncor refinery in Montreal East and the Ultramar refinery in Lévis.

The pipeline, which Enbridge calls Line 9B, can carry up to 240,000 barrels of crude per day. Refineries are now interested in Alberta crude because it’s selling at about $20 less per barrel than the foreign-sourced oil they are buying now, a spokesperson for Enbridge told The Gazette.

“Quebec refineries have been forced to take crude from the North Sea or West Africa or the Middle East and they are paying quite a bit more for that crude than those who have access to production from Western Canada,” said Stephen Wuori, president of Enbridge’s Liquids Pipelines division.

Équiterre’s Steven Guilbeault and ecologist David Suzuki said Quebecers’ interests will not be served by this project.

“The pipeline, which would carry the tarsands oil all the way from Alberta to Quebec, would go through some of the most densely populated areas of the country, such as the Greater Montreal area,” Guilbeault said, adding polls have shown Quebecers are against oilsands oil because of the environmental impacts of that industry.

Suzuki said Canadians should be reducing their dependence on oil, and pushing their governments toward renewable energy.

“We have always said that the tarsands oil should stay in the ground, period,” said Suzuki, in Montreal this week on speaking engagements. “But this whole battle over pipelines is masking the big question, which is why don’t we have a national energy policy in this country?”

Environmental Defence and Équiterre released a statement Thursday charging that pumping oilsands oil through pipelines in Ontario and Quebec will mean more air pollution and more risk of toxic spills into waterways. They demanded that the National Energy Board assess Enbridge’s full plan, rather than just pieces of it, so that questions of greenhouse gas emissions and risks of spills over long distances can be addressed.

“Getting raw tarsands oil through pipelines is like moving hot, liquid sandpaper that grinds and burns its way through a pipe, thus increasing the chance that weakened pipelines will rupture,” the groups said in their joint press release, adding that pipelines that transport tarsands oil in the U.S. spill three times as much oil per mile as the average pipeline.

But Wuori objected to this characterization.

“The notion that we are putting sandy crude through the pipe is absolutely false,” he said.

The oil that will be shipped through the 9B pipeline will be either diluted bitumen or partially refined crude, and more likely the latter since it is a lot like the light crude refineries in Montreal and Lévis are currently refining, he said.

Wuori stressed that oilsands oil is not sandy by the time it goes into the pipeline. The crude is analyzed at the intake to the pipe to ensure it is no more than 0.5 per cent sediment and water, he said.

“I can’t say that any particular crude is never going to move through that pipeline, but this project is really about light crude for these refineries, because they can get it at more attractive prices than their current sources,” Wuori said.

The $100-million Line 9B reversal is expected to be available for service in early 2014, assuming it gets National Energy Board approval.

It’s Official

Leaked documents reveal Harper government’s active targeting of anti-oil sands organizations.

Posted on February 24, 2012   by Adam Kostrich

Expanding oil sands production at the expense of Canada’s international reputation and the natural environment is an issue of respect. Respect for Indigenous rights, the democratic process, and the natural environment are losing the battle against the reverence of the almighty dollar.

It’s Official: A story about environment and governance.

Documents obtained by the Climate Action Network via access to information legislation reveal that the Harper government drew up lists of “adversaries” and “allies” to the Athabasca oil sands in March of last year.

The document, entitled the Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy, states that it was produced in order to “refram[e] the European debate on oil sands in a manner that protects and advances Canadian interests related to the oil sands and broader Canadian interests in Europe.” It was created in response to EU sensitivities about the emissions-intensive nature of the Alberta oil sands project around the time of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference of December 2009.

In a list of principal actors, the document labels environmental NGOs and Aboriginal groups as adversaries of government economic interests, and lists the National Energy Review Board and energy associations such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Consumer Energy Alliance as allies.

Shortly after its release, the leaked report was supplemented by Greenpeace’s release of a copy of minutes from a meeting of government and oil representatives, obtained under the same legislation. Attendees of the March 2010 meeting included the deputy ministers of Alberta Environment and Alberta Energy, and David Collyer, the President of CAPP.

Stated goals of the meeting included CAPP “upping their game on oil sands outreach” and “turn[ing] up the volume on the existing approach,” denoting an effort to both expand and intensify attempts to gain public support.

Environment Minister Peter Kent stated that the documents are not indicative of the government’s approach to defending the reputation of the oil sands. But the government’s rhetoric is not well received by those who oppose oil sands expansion, the same individuals who have long been implicitly labeled “anti-Canadian” by government communiqués.

“While not surprising, Harper’s ongoing criminalization of Indigenous people is extremely disturbing,” Indigenous and environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller told theLeveller.

“The blanket labeling of Aboriginal groups as adversaries of Canada’s economic agenda is another instance of the two-faced bold lies that the Harper government is so comfortable operating in,” he said, referencing the fact that the Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy papers were exposed on the eve of a Crown meeting between the Harper government and Aboriginal leaders.

Commenting on the influence of the oil industry in shaping public opinion through the media, Thomas-Muller said, “it’s a disproportionate playing field,” citing a $24 million public relations campaign undertaken by public relations firms such as Ethical Oil and CAPP. Both the Harper government’s duplicity and its relationship to Canadian oil companies, Thomas-Muller says, “tears at the very fabric of democracy.” In his view, this is not an accident.

“What there is right now is a skewed and polarized portrayal of these issues, and as long as it is so polarized there is no debate.”

On the issue of polarization, journalists and academics have drawn parallels between the Harper government’s list and the infamous lists drawn up by US Senator Joseph McCarthy, who worked feverishly to associate political dissent with disloyalty during the 1950s, and the “with us or against us” approach of former US President George W. Bush.

The report gives some context to the Harper government’s recent behaviour, which blurs the line between the economic interests of big business and Canadian interests.

At the Durban Conference in December 2011, Canada walked tenderly around commitments to reduce or limit carbon emissions before backing out of the Kyoto Protocol altogether after the conference had ended. All this in the name of ensuring economic stability – which in this case means continued profit growth for business.

Last month, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver memorably accused “radical” groups – his loose definition of which seemed to include any coherent opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and whom he claims are sponsored by “foreign money” – of attempting to “hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” He claimed that these groups were receiving funding from “foreign special interest groups” to undermine the Canadian economy, “no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.”

Minister Oliver’s comments about foreign money and hijacked regulatory systems seem more applicable to the government of Alberta than to political dissidents.

At a speech given during September 2011’s Canada-Asia Co-operation Energy Conference, Minister of Alberta Energy Ron Leipert said that Chinese industry had invested some $15 billion in the oil sands in 2010, in part because more than half of the world’s oil reserves accessible to private investment are in Alberta. In addition, China has pledged $2 billion towards the construction of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific coast, which is being met with staunch opposition from environmental and Indigenous groups. Foreign money indeed.

As for “attempts to hijack the regulatory system,” the CAPP delegation stressed to Alberta government representatives in a 2010 meeting the “opportunity cost” for intensifying public relations campaigns. They explained their “desire for coordination between industry and the federal and provincial governments on this issue.” This begs the question – who desires this coordination if it takes place outside the democratic process, and who is primed to benefit from it?

Increasingly transparent cases of the Canadian oil industry and the Harper government working in tandem to puppeteer public opinion on economic and environmental issues show that the Harper government prefers a welcoming business climate to a habitable environmental climate. Expanding oil sands production at the expense of Canada’s international reputation and the natural environment is an issue of respect. Respect for Indigenous rights, the democratic process, and the natural environment are losing the battle against the reverence of the almighty dollar.