TAR SANDS VOTE
I may someday support a resolution opposing tar sands oil going through the nearby pipeline, such as the one whooped through the recent special town meeting, but not now, and here's why.
Everything I've heard or read about this issue comes from the same side of the issue. There just has to be another side – there always is – and we deserve to hear from that side. No rational judge would send the jury off to deliberate after hearing only the prosecution's case, not without at least asking the defense if they'd like to say something. But that is what happened at this special town meeting.
For example, I'd love to hear what somebody in the pipeline industry might have to say about the part of Bethel's resolution that says
WHEREAS, between 2007 and 2010 pipelines already carrying tar sands oil in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan spilled almost three times more oil per mile of pipeline compared with the U.S. National average.
Why just those four states – are they the only ones with pipelines carrying tar sands oil, or are they the only ones with spills? Why just 2007 through 2010 – are those the only years that pipelines carried tar sands oil, or are they the only years with spills?
I'd also like to hear what the record of the nearby pipeline has been over the past six decades.
I have to wonder why anyone would bother to pipe tar sands oil from Montreal to Portland only to put every last bit of it onto a tanker to somewhere else, as the resolution's proponents suggest. Wouldn't it be less expensive just to put it onto that same tanker in Montreal? After all, Montreal is on the St. Lawrence Seaway.
This resolution made a point of saying that this pipeline passes along and crosses under rivers. But how could it be otherwise? You can't get from Portland to Montreal without crossing rivers – not now, not in 1950 when this pipeline was built, and not since the glaciers went away. Of course this pipeline passes along rivers. That's the easiest way to get from here to there – the rivers already took the easiest way. That's why highways pass along rivers, and why railroads do the same. From here to Gorham, you'll find that Route 2, the Androscoggin River, and the railroad are never very far apart.
Why couldn't this issue have waited for the regular June town meeting, when it could be considered by folks other than partisans of this particular issue? To my knowledge, no date has been announced for tar sands oil running through this pipeline. I don't know that even an undated announcement has been made. Does it really make a difference if some other towns put their oar in the water first?
Decades ago, when I was a mere engineer reporting to a director of engineering, I used to get annoyed when my boss insisted on deferring decisions about whether I should proceed this way or that. One day he told me, “Scott, here's how it works. If it is not necessary to make this decision right now, then it is necessary not to make this decision right now.” I really didn't like hearing that at the time, but I've thought about it over the years and decided that, dammit, he was right.
Our selectmen should have put this resolution on the agenda for our regular town meeting, and they should have invited, not disallowed, any opposing viewpoints to be heard.