2013-10-18 / Letters

WPO preserves community

To the editor:

The Waterfront Protection Ordinance does not change or shut down the working waterfront. It just assures community input.

The Portland-Montreal Pipeline is facing a new challenge to its 70-year-old business model to reverse the flow of its pipeline so that it can be a part of the Canadian tar sands (dilbit) export business. The Waterfront Protection Ordinance effectively blocks Portland-Montreal Pipeline’s plan to change its own operations from that of unloading tankers to loading tankers. This is how the Waterfront Protection Ordinance prevents any proposal to build smokestacks that would be a new environmental and health risk – and eyesore – that, in the view of many local residents, are emblematic of global dirty oil – and they want no part of it.

Portland-Montreal Pipeline representatives at the Aug. 19 city council meeting assured councilors that no such proposed construction is on the table. After that meeting was adjourned, I asked some of these representatives informally why Portland-Montreal Pipeline does not offer a 5-, 10-, or 20-year guarantee that it will not propose such a plan. Such a guarantee would completely dissipate the issue that motivated the Waterfront Protection Ordinance in the first place and could bring peace to South Portland’s now divided constituency. The answer was that this would limit Portland-Montreal Pipeline’s market flexibility. In other words, Portland-Montreal Pipeline wants to reserve the right to build such a facility without the public weighing in on the decision.

If Portland-Montreal Pipeline would guarantee a specific quantity, salary and stability of jobs, or a specific permanent percentage discount for local energy costs that its new business plan creates commensurate with the permanence of any smokestack or new infrastructure on the waterfront, then we would know the terms of any bargains or compromises that we as a community are asked to make rather than to quake in visceral fear or excitement when we hear the word “jobs.” But, unfortunately, local fuel prices are not determined by Portland-Montreal Pipeline’s existing or proposed operations, employing a happy workforce is an expendable component in silently maintaining market flexibility.

It’s sad to see this tar sands issue pit neighbor against neighbor. I just wish that Portland-Montreal Pipeline would acknowledge the significant local disapproval of its dilbit business plan and engage the whole community in charting a palatable new course rather than inflame local discord and sink community money into its likely legal challenges to the Waterfront Protection Ordinance if it passes. I believe Portland-Montreal Pipeline can be better civic partner than this. But because it treats us like expendable commodities to be brushed aside, I will fight back by voting for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Eben Rose
South Portland

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