A summer that has seen record-breaking heat and drought across America also brings protests of a nearby energy-related proposal with bad climate impacts. A pipeline starting at the oil terminal in South Portland runs all the way to Canada. The Portland-Montreal Pipe Line currently carries conventional crude 236 miles across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to refineries in Montreal. Two Canadian Companies, Montreal Pipe Line Ltd. and Enbridge Inc. could choose to reverse the flow direction of the pipeline to pump tar sands oil past us to the world market.

Local officials and environmental advocates express alarm over the pipeline plan. Issues arise because of environmental consequences associated with the extremely heavy, viscous oil called “bitumen” extracted from the tar sands near the boomtown of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Tar-sands oil is more corrosive than conventional oil. It is called “the world’s dirtiest oil” and described as hot, liquid sandpaper that grinds through a pipe. Opponents cite to the threat that pipeline failure and spills will harm waterways, drinking water, wildlife and other natural resources. In Maine, the pipeline crosses the Androscoggin, Crooked and Presumpscot rivers and passes 1,000 feet from Sebago Lake, the source of clean drinking water for many Southern Maine communities.

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