Canada's envoy to New England pens editorial as protesters express concern over Alberta oil flowing across the region.
MONTREAL—The Canadian government has moved to shield the oil industry from yet another public-relations storm related to pipelines—this time on the US East Coast.
Canada’s envoy to New England penned an editorial published in a Maine newspaper Monday, two days after more than 1,000 protesters in the state expressed concern Alberta oil could soon flow across the region.
Consul General Pat Binns wrote in the Portland Press Herald op-ed that the environmental record of oilsands production has improved in recent years.
“Technology is making oilsands production increasingly efficient and environmentally responsible,” said Binns, who has served as premier of Prince Edward Island and as Canadian ambassador to Ireland.
He also dismissed allegations that diluted oilsands bitumen is more corrosive in pipelines than other crudes: “Pipelines have proven to be safer than all other methods of transport, including trucks, rail and ships,” Binns wrote.
The response comes as projects to send oilsands crude to the West Coast and the US Gulf Coast have been stalled amid controversy, and oilpatch producers are searching for new ways to transport Canadian oil to market.
The Maine protesters opposed the prospect of Western Canadian oil eventually being pumped through an existing pipeline between Montreal and Portland, the state’s largest city.
Demonstrators marched through Portland to a rally, where Mayor Michael Brennan and Democratic US Rep. Chellie Pingree delivered speeches about the serious environmental risk of allowing heavy oil from Alberta to cross northern New England.
No plan has actually been announced for such changes to the pipeline, but opposition to such a project has grown on both sides of the border.
People in the rural Quebec community of Sutton also held a protest Saturday in an effort to keep what they call “dirty oil” out of the region.
Opponents say Alberta crude is more likely to cause spills and could put fragile ecosystems in Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont at risk.
They point to a recent proposal by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. to reverse the flow on Line 9 between southern Ontario and Montreal. That project would see Alberta crude sent to Montreal.
People who live in communities along the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line believe the Line 9 initiative could eventually open the door for a reversal on the New England pipeline, which currently pumps foreign oil from the US seacoast to refineries in Montreal.
A spokesman for Enbridge said in a statement last week the company has no plan to use the pipeline between Montreal and Portland, which it does not even own.
Still, politicians in Portland have already discussed the possibility of banning the purchase of fuel from the oilsands for municipal vehicles.
“With climate change once again at the forefront of our minds, it is crucial that we work together to end our dependence upon foreign oil and keep our community free of fuels like tar sands,” Brennan said in a statement. “We need to work together to expand the market for renewable energies and eliminate the demand for tar sands and other fuels that are not only a root cause for climate change but also carry real risks of pollution and spills in our backyard.”
Two New England communities recently passed resolutions to voice their concerns over any project that would send oilsands crude through the region.
The Maine town of Casco issued a news release in local newspapers to announce a Jan. 12 resolution, citing potential hazards for the environment and public health.