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Maine Lakefront Property Owners in Sebago Lakes Region Consider Tar Sands Concerns


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Tar sands is heavy crude oil mixed with sand, clay and bitumen. It’s thick and sticky and reportedly difficult to extract. Canadian energy companies are mining tar sands oil from the ground in Alberta’s boreal forest.

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Currently, the U.S. imports 800,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil, and the stage is being set for a drastic increase. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil from Alberta across six states–Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas–carrying the oil more than two thousand miles to refineries on the Gulf Coast, America’s largest oil refining and transport hub.

Similarly, there is talk in Maine of reversing the flow of oil in an existing pipe line that currently transports imported conventional oil from Portland to Montreal and using this to bring tar sands oil down through the state.

The existing pipeline passes through twelve Maine towns and past sensitive areas including the Androscoggin River, Sebago Lake and Casco Bay. Residents are concerned about the natural resources in their towns, the effects should a leak happen and the destruction of the boreal forest in Alberta. A major leak of tar sands oil occurred in 2010 in Michigan when an Enbridge pipeline oozed into the Kalamazoo River, contaminating a 35-mile stretch. Two years later, the cleanup is still on-going.

To this end, several of the towns along the pipeline, including Casco, Raymond, Bethel, Windham, Waterford and South Portland, have been meeting to discuss the issue. Casco was the first town in Maine to pass a resolution stating that they oppose tar sands oil crossing through their town, should the oil companies decide to seek a presidential permit to reverse the flow.

John Quinn, executive director of New England Petroleum Council, a Boston-based company, has attended several of the town meetings over the last few months to reassure residents that tar sands oil is not more corrosive or more likely to result in leaks. In a January 2013 editorial printed in the Portland Press Herald, Mr. Quinn stated, “No study has proven oil sands crude to be more corrosive than other crude oils transported in U.S. pipelines. From 2002 to 2011, U.S. Department of Transportation pipeline incident data show that no pipelines carrying oil sands crude had experienced releases resulting from internal corrosion, including the 2010 incident in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Canadian research group, Alberta Innovates, even found that compounds in oil sands crude are too stable to be corrosive under pipeline operating temperatures.”

Mr. Quinn goes on to say: “Canada’s oil sands development has affected less than 0.2 percent of Alberta’s boreal forest. In fact, 24 percent of the forest, or about the size of South Carolina, is under federal protection and can’t be touched by production, not to mention that any land disturbed must be reclaimed by law.

The claim that oil sands crude emits “more carbon per barrel” than the production of conventional crudes is misleading. It’s the combustion of a fuel that produces 70 to 80 percent of emissions — not crude oil — and there is no differentiation between whether it was derived from light crude of West Texas or heavy crude from Alberta.”

There are so many questions still to ask and to be answered. We encourage you to do your own research and continue to learn more about this issue.

To learn more about lakefront property listings on Sebago Lake, click on the green box above.

To learn more about the Sebago Lakes Region of Maine, click on the blog links below.

The Greater Sebago Lakes Region of Maine

Sebago Lake Region, Windham, Maine: Lakefront Property Highly Valued