A few weeks ago, some of us working on the Line 9 pipeline issue in Montreal headed down to Portland, Maine. Line 9 currently goes from Sarnia to a refinery in the east end of Montreal, and currently flows east to west. In November, Enbridge applied to the National Energy Board to increase the barrels per day capacity and to reverse the flow from west to east to accommodate oil from the tar sands. Although the initial plan to also reverse the Montreal Portland Pipeline from Montreal to Portland was defeated in 2008, it has resurfaced recently.
The problem with this heavy crude (or diluted bitumen) is that it's so viscous that they have to add toxic chemicals to get it to flow through the pipes. Besides the fact that the tar sands will basically undo any changes Canadians do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this diluted bitumen is especially gross when it leaks since the oil sinks in the water and the chemicals (known carcinogens) evaporate in the air and can be smelled from miles away. How do we know this will happen? It's already happened with a massive spill in Michigan and more recently, Arkansas, where the pipeline was very similar to the existing line from Montreal to Maine.
On our way back from Portland to Montreal, we decided to follow the pipeline route (which you can see here). And what we found shocked me.
But first, we stopped at the Cape Elizabeth lighthouse, just a few miles outside Portland.
After watching the huge waves for a while, we started our 7 hour trip back to Montreal. I was told that I wouldn't believe our first stop - the "tank farm" where energy companies store oil in huge silos before transporting it to the Portland Pier 2. We had trouble finding Hill Street where Portland Montreal Pipeline's tank farm is located, but when we did, I couldn't believe it was real.
There were tanks full of oil - right in a residential area in South Portland. The whole neighbourhood reeked of gasoline, like there was an open can of gas in front of me.
I couldn't believe that seemingly normal looking houses were yards away from giant oil tanks.
I think I went white when I saw a kids' playground right on the other side of the fence.
How could South Portland stand for this? It might help that Portland Montreal Pipeline Limited bought the town a library.
Thoroughly shaken, we drove northwards up through Raymond to get lunch. We stopped at a super cute and delicious deli that...the pipeline almost literally ran right through.
We continued on through Casco, Waterford, and Bethel which passed municipal resolutions against tar sands oil flowing through the pipeline in their towns. And also where 1,900 litres of oil spilled from the pipeline in 1990.
The road crossed into New Hampshire, where we drove past the Shelburne Pumping Station, just yards away from the Androscoggin River. It's an important river for fishing and tourism in the area that provides drinking water to people, and the pipeline crosses under the water twice.
We passed Randolf, New Hampire, which is the first place that the Portland Montreal PipeLine company showed up for a public meeting in November.
Not far past the pumping station, we passed areas in Vermont that have previously had oil spills due to corrosion or natural forces. Close to the spillage areas, the pipeline crosses the Connecticut River, the largest and longest river in New England.
One of our last stops was the Highwater Pumping Station right on the border of Quebec and Vermont. It's on the Quebec side, so it's strange that some of the signs are only in English. The BB gun holes in the nearby signs were a little disconcerting too.
On the way back to Montreal, we passed the pipeline crossing through the town of Sutton, just a few miles from my family's cottage.
My trip ended at the cottage, where my dad was busy making maple syrup. The next morning, I headed down to the river, where we've seen otters, mink, and beavers.
I have spent so many happy days by this river, mesmerized by the splendour of nature around me. There are oil spills around the country every other day, and it breaks my heart to think of the pipeline taking this place too.
I'm an eco-conscious girl from Montreal, Quebec. I'm currently an adjunct science professor at Champlain College of Vermont (Montreal Campus). I'm interested in any opportunities to expand my experience with grassroots activism, climate change legislation, or environmental education.