"TAR SANDS" CONCERNS
Bethel, held a Public Forum on 3/21/13 to discus the pros and cons of the Tar Sands Oil (TSO) issue relative to the Portland-Montreal pipeline (PMPL) that passes through our region. Fifteen people representing oil interests and a Canadian government official attended. The event revealed that TSO opponents are dealing with a wily adversary who questions our motives at every opportunity. Listed below are 10 factors that fully justify our concerns and demands for a new, comprehensive review of the entire pipeline project:
1. Tar Sands Oil, a.k.a. “TSO” a.k.a. “dilbit” (Diluted Bitumen), must be diluted up to 50 percent with Natural Gas Distillates to make it liquid enough to pump through pipelines.
2. PMPL claims that resulting TSO is no different than “normal” heavy crudes. That is clearly false because normal crudes don't require the kind of dilution TSO does.
3. The TSO diluents include some nasty chemicals, including Butane, Hexane, Octane, Toluene, Benzene, etc. Some are proven carcinogens and flammables. The exact mix may never be known to us so that we can protect ourselves appropriately, because it's classified as a “Trade Secret,” just as fracking fluids are. We think that's plain wrong.
4. A million-plus gallon TSO spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 is still not cleaned up 32 months later. That's because there is no proven technology capable of doing the job, anywhere. A look at the MI State spill response document shows it to be adequate for “normal crudes” and lighter oils such as heating and diesel fuels – but not TSO because uniquely, when diluents evaporate (in hours), TSO sinks to the bottom and sticks. Many miles of that river remain polluted despite industry assertions and over 130 uninhabitable homes and businesses are being bought up by the oil companies.
5. Similar spill response deficiencies exist in the New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine spill response documents and may exist in other states we have not checked.
6. A Kalamazoo-type spill anywhere into a local river or tributary would instantly render it – and all downstream activities or businesses dependent on the resource – unsuitable for human activity for many months or years.
7. Short- and long-term health and safety impacts on Kalamazoo, MI., people and environmental entities are still being determined, but early medical indications and the MSDS data sheets for the diluents indicate that health impacts could be significant.
8. Our area is heavily dependent on and aggressively marketing our “Quality Of Place.” Many businesses, including our new Gem & Mineralogy Museum have made significant investment in that effort because a Brookings Institute study recommended it as our best bet for regional economic recovery.
9. As a partner in a small business located on the Androscoggin River, I sought quotes for coverage in the event of a spill. It may be new ground because two underwriters have not yet provided quotes. I suggest other landowners and businesses inquire similarly to local realty and insurance people. Judging by the delays seen in the Gulf Coast and Kalamazoo spills, we could have zero income for many months – or years. Visitor traffic drop-off would be catastrophic and enduring.
10. We're growing more negative with every day of evasion, distortion and tricks by the Dilbit industry including the KXL pipeline. We are not getting proper information on the extent of potential risks, nor are thousands of concerned folks in towns all along the pipelines. It's good to know that we are not alone in this.
We are further alarmed by recent news that those in our government who review permit documentation are doing a bad job of looking after our interests and are not truly “independent” organizations. As concerned American citizens we deserve and demand better than that. Considering the above, perhaps we can be forgiven when we view potential impacts on our well-being with concern and skepticism.
A good result from all this is that we and many towns from Portland Maine to Montreal learn to work effectively together to preserve and protect ourselves from threats to our communities and our future generations.