Portland Sun
Craig Lyons

A Canadian agency's decision to allow the flow reversal of a pipeline from Ontario to Montreal was decried as the first step toward pumping tar sands through Maine.
The National Energy Board of Canada announced Thursday that it had approved plans by Enbridge to transport oil through its pipeline from Ontario to Montreal, according to a press release. Environmental groups in Maine reacted to the decision by cautioning the state that the agency's decision could soon allow tar sands to be pumped from Montreal to the Portland waterfront.
"Today's decision brings toxic tar sands oil right to New England's doorstep, and one step away from flowing south through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine," said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, in a statement. "This decision should put Maine on high alert for the threat of tar sands transportation through our state. That would be unacceptable. Now is the time for the U.S. State Department to commit to an environmental review of any tar sands project in our state."
The agency's decision will allow Enbridge to move oil from west to east, where it previously pumped oil from Montreal; allow the pipeline to move heavy crude oil; and expand the volume from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day, according to a summary of the decision.
The Enbridge project is separate from the Portland to Montreal Pipeline. The Portland to Montreal Pipeline has denied plans to reverse the flow of its line and bring heavy crude from Canada into Maine.
Groups including the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Environment Maine, the Sierra Club of Maine, the Sebago Lake Anglers' Association and a number of other groups called on the U.S. State Department to be notified if the Portland to Montreal Pipeline plans to reverse the flow and require a new permit.
"We've been expecting today's news, and it only redoubles our commitment to keep tar sands out of Maine by preventing it from being shipped out of Casco Bay. For our coast, our water, and our climate, we simply will not allow tar sands to flow through our beautiful state," said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor, in a statement.
Last fall, the Citizens to Protect South Portland tried to pass an ordinance to block a project they felt was a step toward moving tar sands oil into Maine but the measure failed at the polls. The South Portland City council did approve a moratorium on any project related to tar sands for six months.
"After today's disappointing news from Canada, Maine needs to send a strong, clear message that we will not be next," said Voorhees. "We again call on our Congressional delegation to lead and defend Maine's interests."

Last year, Graham White, manager of business communications for Canadian energy company Enbridge, told The Daily Sun that "tar sands" transport into Maine is not an active effort.
"Please note that contrary to recent reports and claims by some environmental and protest groups in the region, Enbridge has no plans or proposals whatsoever to transport any crude products, including diluted bitumen, through the pipelines of the Portland Montreal Pipe Line company that runs from Portland, Maine to Montreal, Quebec," he said.