Statement of Dylan Voorhees, NRCM Clean Energy Project Director, in response to today’s Oil Sands Spill Training Workshop in Portland, ME
We commend the officials at the EPA, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), U.S. Coast Guard, and others who have organized today’s tar sands training in Portland. Today’s training is focused on preparing for tar sands oil spills because they know that oil spills happen.
“There has been lots of talk about tar sands coming through Maine over the last year. There is now clear evidence* that a plan is moving forward to ship tar sands oil along a pipeline from Ontario to Montreal and then down to Portland—despite carefully-parsed quasi-denials by oil pipeline companies.
“Maine people deserve to know that Maine officials are already preparing for a tar sands oil spill.
“Before it is too late, and we have to put this tar sands spill training to work, we hope that Maine citizens, stakeholders, and elected officials will join us in calling for a full environmental review of putting tar sands into this 60-year-old pipeline. Requiring a Presidential Permit from the State Department could ensure a full environmental review takes place, as it should.
“The only way to guarantee that a tar sands spill won’t happen in Maine is to prevent this dirty oil from coming through our state in the first place, whether by rail, pipeline or other means.
“One of the reasons this training may be needed is because tar sands is very different from the conventional crude oil currently carried across Maine by a 60-year-old oil pipeline. Tar sands or ‘diluted bitumen’ is far more viscous, acidic, and toxic, and reacts very differently when spilled.
“Evidence from the disastrous tar sands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 shows that this oil substance is more likely to sink into the sediment, making traditional surface clean-up completely inadequate. In addition, piped tar sands are typically diluted with toxic chemicals, such as the carcinogen benzene, which escape when spilled and create air quality hazards for residents and spill responders alike. The Kalamazoo River spill clean-up has already cost $750 million, shut down the river for years, dislocated dozens of families, and sparked medical problems for hundreds of residents.
“Beyond the risk of a toxic tar sands oil spill, few sources of energy are as harmful for climate change as tar sands. The carbon pollution from using tar sands-derived fuels cannot be cleaned-up, and makes Maine’s efforts to help reduce climate change pollution to protect our coasts, forests, health, and economy all the more difficult.
“Over the past year we’ve heard from diverse Maine people including landowners, clammers, water district trustees, and wilderness guides, that bringing tar sands through Maine is too big a risk.
“Sending tar sands across Maine for export, is an all risk, no reward proposition for Maine’s people, environment, and economy.”
*For example, on November 30, 2012 Enbridge filed an application to bring heavy crude to Montreal along the pipeline that also connects to Portland, ME. See www.nrcm.org/tarsands.asp for other evidence and a map.