Learning about the Portland-Montreal Pipeline through a class I took in the honors department of the University of Southern Maine is one thing. Seeing it in person and immersing yourself with the communities it crosses is another.
This week, the Maine Climate Summer Riders worked with Environment Maine, a program consisting of thousands of citizen members and professional staff dedicated to responsible environmental stewardship. Our objective was to raise awareness about the Portland-Montreal Pipeline in the Lakes Region (specifically Windham). On Tuesday and Wednesday, we spent our afternoons door to door canvassing with landowners along the pipeline to sign a petition of support for a Tar Sands Free Northeast. Our goal is for the town of Windham to pass a resolution opposing tar sands, adding it to the list of six other towns who oppose the project. We knew that landowners along the pipeline, in theory, could influence the Windham city council’s decision. But more importantly, if tar sands were to spill from the pipeline, it would be these individuals who would be most affected. Shockingly, the majority of the landowners were not aware of ExxonMobil’s plans to export tar sands from Alberta to Casco Bay. Some were even oblivious to the pre-existing crude oil pipeline lying underneath their houses!
While I was canvassing, I got the opportunity to see the pipeline’s actual route. I saw yellow posts (which indicated the route of the pipeline) in many disturbing places. One post indicated that the pipeline crossed through a small stable filled with majestic horses. They reminded me of a report I read from the Sierra Club documenting animal deformities as a result of tar sands pollution. I knew that these horses could fall victim to environmental catastrophe. I saw the pipeline cross through a small stream. If the corrosive nature of tar sands were to cause a leak here, it would be literally impossible to clean up (as what happened in the Kalamazoo River Spill).
Seeing exactly where the pipeline crossed was an eye-opening experience. I used to associate pollution and environmental catastrophe with New Orleans, Southside Chicago, and Los Angeles. Now, I know that until we transition to responsible energy sources, we are ALL at risk of environmental crisis.