2013-11-01 / Letters

Letters to the Editor

Editor’s note: Letters are being printed without headlines this week to allow space for the most possible letters.

To the editor:

The voters of South Portland will face a very important question on the Nov. 5 ballot. The question has to do with a so-called Waterfront Protection Ordinance. But the reality is that this proposed ordinance has very little to do with protecting the trade that occurs at the waterfront and certainly has far less to do with the preservation of jobs that exist there today.

Currently, the South Portland waterfront receives the vast bulk of petroleum products brought into Maine. The heating oil utilized by hundreds of thousands of homes, the fuel used in family vehicles, the gas for the lawnmower, snowmobile or outboard motor on the boat are all distributed through the assets at South Portland waterfront.

The proposed ordinance would make it impossible to expand the receipt of petroleum products as Maine’s economy expands. In some instances it would even prohibit the repair of existing assets at the waterfront, which means the very ability to continue using the waterfront in future years could well be impacted.

If the South Portland Waterfront is made less efficient or legislated out of existence by a city ordinance that seeks to impede its current mission, then all of the petroleum products that arrive there today will have to be brought by truck into the state. Trucking all of the materials will add thousands of trucks to our already crowded roads as well as adding great cost to the products for our homeowners and Maine industry that use petroleum products in the course of their existence.

The ordinance would cost millions of dollars in lost community revenue, unfairly target local businesses and make them less competitive and would hurt consumers with the certainty of increased fuel costs. It would directly threaten the jobs of hundreds of employees currently working on the waterfront. A report by the consulting firm Planning Decisions Inc., predicts that over a 10-year period Maine would lose approximately 5,600 jobs if the ordinance is passed. The petroleum assets on the waterfront account for 84 percent of the vessels arriving at the port and 94 percent of its total cargo.

An ordinance that seeks to impede the workings of the South Portland waterfront is ill-advised. The Maine economy and the families whose work will be negatively impacted if the ordinance passes are at risk. The Waterfront Protection Ordinance should be soundly defeated on Nov. 5.

Duane Lugdon

To the editor:

On Nov. 5, South Portland voters have the opportunity to vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, preventing out-ofstate oil companies from building new smokestacks and other infrastructures needed to transport tar sands oil through the state of Maine and into tankers docked in Casco Bay. Tar sands oil, a mixture of clay, crude oil and sand, is more corrosive, more toxic and much harder to clean up than conventional oil. Big oil is trying to convince voters that tar sands are safe, but the mess of recent spills in Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan and Montana show us that they are not. In fact, there have been hundreds of spills in the last decade, including one in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 that released more than 840,000 gallons of sludge, causing health problems for area residents and widespread damage to the ecosystem.

A spill doesn’t need to happen to compromise the health of residents of South Portland and surrounding areas. The smokestacks will emit benzene, a known carcinogen. Tar sands are terrible for the climate, too, with significantly higher emissions of the pollution that causes global warming than conventional oil.

Big oil’s push for tar sands is a national issue that touches us right here in Maine, which means that South Portland voters have the power to make an impact that reaches far beyond the borders of our fair state. Please vote yes on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Jennifer Lunden

To the editor:

I am voting for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance to protect the way of life my friends and I enjoy in South Portland. I registered for the annual Bug Light 5K to have a fitness goal to work toward.

The publicity for the annual Bug Light 5K Run & Walk describes it as being “In Celebration of Livable, Healthy & Historic South Portland.”

I had to miss the 5K. I ended up working on the Protect South Portland campaign and I was working with volunteers from all over our city coordinating the efforts to pass the Waterfront Protection Ordinance. My fitness goals took a different form – walking the neighborhoods of our city asking for your vote to will keep South Portland livable, healthy and historic with a strong working waterfront.

The biggest corporation in the world whose profits are reported at $45 billion a year does not need our defense. They have proven so by using over $600,000 to hide behind small businesses and hard working individuals who do not work in the petroleum industry. Individuals and small businesses have not contributed with financial support or volunteer time to defend an oil company. The oil company is fighting for itself and no one else.

We will be coming to your door and calling you to remind you to vote. I have stood up with hundreds of other volunteers to say, “We need to care for our city and the people in it.” Please vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Crystal Goodrich
South Portland

To the editor:

One hundred years from now, when all the world’s oil has been depleted, the companies in South Portland (and beyond) that associate themselves with petroleum products will be rendered obsolete.

Perhaps both sides of the Waterfront Protection Ordinance should start discussing more important matters. Like, what to do with the hundreds of acres of waterfront property that will become available when there’s no more petroleum products left to transport.

Mike Stivaletti
South Portland

To the editor:

The most striking aspect of the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is its vision. Using clear, well-crafted language, the petroleum industry’s assumed playground within the shipyard district will have a clearly defined fence placed around it. The fence, simple and smart in its design, has no loopholes.

Within the clearly marked boundaries of the petroleum industry’s assumed playground are specific rules it must follow. These rules have no impact on current functions and day-to-day operations of the shipyard district and those dependent on the district. Their activities will continue uninterrupted.

By establishing physical boundaries and limiting activities to what is occurring in the present, the ordinance minimizes the impact on future generations from the petroleum industry’s eventual decline; when terminals shut down, when tanks and equipment are left to rust and for the local community to clean up. The end of the petroleum industry will not occur in my lifetime, but hopefully in my children’s – no kicking the can of financial responsibility down the street.

The ordinance sends a message to other communities in Maine to draw a line in the sand if you value what Maine has to offer. Consider the ongoing mismanagement (intentional?) of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, led by former lobbyist Patricia Aho, missed deadlines, weakened mining regulations. Consider the governor’s targeting of clean-air standards.

Some argue that within those confines necessary upgrades will not be possible. Why must the footprint grow? Isn’t the mantra of efficient management and production “we must work smarter; we must learn and develop ways to do more with less”? Possibly the petroleum industry could take a lesson from the industries it impacts. Cars are more fuel efficient because of redesign, change in weight and materials. Allowing free reign disincentives the petroleum industry from “working smarter.”

There is concern that passage of the ordinance will lead to future expensive court action, a financial battle South Portland cannot sustain against the petroleum industries outside money and legislative dark money. However, this is not South Portland’s problem, it is Maine’s problem. As is evident South Portland or Maine cannot depend on the current leadership in Augusta or the DEP for support.

The answer to a long-term court battle resides in electing a governor and Legislature that understands the economic future of Maine is not in supporting declining industries. Rather it is building on the wealth of natural resources Maine has to offer for the tourist industry, as well as a home for knowledge innovation to attract those desiring to live in one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the country.

The big kid (big oil) on the playground and its cousin, tar sands, do not like anyone challenging their perceived entitlement to play the games they choose without limitations. They will take every action to give those getting in their way a bloody nose. Hopefully, the citizens of South Portland will give big oil a good kick in the shins first.

Thomas Czyz

To the editor:

I am supporting the South Portland Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

In spite of denials, I assume that oil companies in the future are going to want to reverse the pipeline oil flow and bring in tar sands. How could they resist the profits and the resulting bonuses for their CEOs? What will happen to South Portland and its businesses then?

Do you remember the Julie Ann? Do you remember the birds ingesting the oil from their feathers in an effort to get clean? Do you remember the smell of oil in the air? Tar sands are much worse.

What would happen to property values? What would happen to fishing and lobstering? How many cruise ships would want to come to port? What would the air be like? What would our health become like?

Please, vote to protect our port, our environment and our way of life. Join me in voting for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Mary Morrison
South Portland

To the editor:

South Portlanders need to vote yes on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance to save our air, our water, Bug Light Park and our property values. The arguments against it are all red herrings concocted by big oil.

Vague complaints by firemen and planners can be dispensed with. The Waterfront Protection Ordinance specifically allows upgrades to support the fire code and planners are making wild claims about cost increases if oil has to be trucked instead of shipped – ridiculous for two reasons: we don’t get our oil from those storage tanks and; they presume all the businesses will fail, which is many fixable steps away, if it’s a realistic fear at all.

The only real argument against the Waterfront Protection Ordinance focuses on Section 4, which effectively contains the petroleum industry in South Portland to what it has now. Contrary to fears fanned by big oil, this limitation applies exclusively to the petroleum industry. It does not “sink the working waterfront.”

It is a message that the petroleum industry in South Portland has to come to grips with limited space and the citizens’ need for clean air, water, for use of Bug Light Park and for keeping our property values.

The bottom line is that Portland Pipeline is on the ropes because Canadian pipelines are removing Montreal’s need for Portland Pipeline’s oil. Maybe their 70-year-old is done, maybe they need to adapt to a new world. Toxic chemicals at Bug Light and threatening Sebago Lake are not acceptable to us – but tar sands oil is about all they have left.

If the Waterfront Protection Ordinance passes, it will not be the end. Exxon has hundreds of billions in cash. And if there are legitimate limitations on businesses not interested in tar sands oil, they can be fixed.

But we will have sent a powerful message – that our air, water, our park and our property values come first.

Edward Pearlman
Street South Portland

To the editor:

Shameful. No other word describes the behavior of five South Portland city councilors, under the guidance of Sally Daggett, corporation counsel, in circumventing the public Freedom of Information Act, (requiring public meetings). Led by Jerry Jalbert, District 5 Councilors Alan Livingston, Linda Cohen, Melissa Linscott and Michael Pock, (supposed public representatives) wrote a letter in secret, signed it and submitted it to the press.

Jalbert stated at the council meeting Oct. 21, “It was a calculated risk” “I knew it would be controversial.” Really? But you decided to do it anyway? Yes, controversial alright. When a public official strategizes with a goal of conducting business out of the public eye and admits that he knew it would cause concern, it surely is a problem.

Jalbert continued to act as if he were well within his rights, behaving with the pompous attitude he frequently presents, “know it all.” He reported he understands the law given his “more than 18 years on boards and committees.” His actions suggest he learned nothing.

During council round robin, Livingston told the audience to “get your head out of the sand.” Insulting the public is his defense? Cohen spent her full three minutes defending her actions. Pock spoke on a different issue and Linscott passed. You had not a word to say about what you did, Councilor Linscott?

Sally Daggett should be terminated immediately for providing poor legal advice. After training the council on ethics, her guidance was unconscionable. Since her advice served to support the city manager’s position on this topic, Jim Gailey should acknowledge he has been far too involved in an issue that should have been left in the hands of the public, as was voted to do.

This behavior represents some of the most disgusting conduct of this city council. I am dismayed and angry. The public must demand action. This is not acceptable.

Rosemarie De Angelis
South Portland

To the editor:

I am a nurse who supports the Waterfront Protection Ordinance as I am concerned about the significant potential health risks from tar sands to the citizens of South Portland. Much of southern Maine could also be affected if the pipeline flow is reversed to permit the flow of tar sands to our city for export. The product is heavier and more toxic than the oil flowing to Canada.

The pipeline crosses tributaries to Sebago Lake, the primary water supply to southern Maine, multiple times. Part of the pipeline is underground, tar sands would sink and a leak could go undetected until the water supply was compromised. A pipeline official told a city councilor at the first public hearing that the pipeline could last indefinitely when she inquired about its life expectancy. We have seen that water pipes and schools cannot be expected to last indefinitely.

There have been two major spills of this product in the United States already. In addition, the by-products of the tar sands would need to be burned off at the Bug Light area. The World Health Organization recently declared air pollution to be a major cause of cancer. The Bug Light location by residential areas, public recreation areas, and schools is concerning. In addition, any local spill could cause loss of irreplaceable beautiful coastal property. The risks appear too high to our water supply, our health and our way of life. Residents in other Maine communities are looking to South Portland to take a leadership role in preventing the transport of a known toxic substance through our community. I urge undecided residents to look at the facts and vote for the ordinance on Nov. 5.

Leslie Gatcombe-Hynes
South Portland

To the editor:

Play fair. Never cheat. Tell the truth. These are words I say frequently as a lacrosse coach, volunteer and a mother of three children. We all want our kids to grow up to be fair and honest, and we expect that adults will serve as role models. How disheartening when adults don’t always play fair or tell the truth. How completely unacceptable when these lies could affect the health and well being of our children and neighbors.

When it comes to the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, the people of South Portland deserve the truth. I am outraged by the many lies that the oil industry is spreading throughout our community. It seems that they will do and say anything, while spending outrageous amounts of money to get what they want. What we as parents, coaches, teachers and community members need to know are the facts about what’s at stake.

The first thing to know is that the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is very narrowly crafted. It applies only to petroleum-related facilities and it does not change, restrict or limit in any way any existing business activity –including existing oil business activity. In other words, oil companies can continue to operate in the same ways that they do now.

The Waterfront Protection Ordinance would only block a major petroleum expansion for the purpose of unloading tar sands crude oil onto tankers for exportation, like the twin 70- foot smokestacks that would need to be built near Bug Light.

Another thing that’s not being acknowledged by the oil industry is the serious health threats of a tar sands project. Tar sands smokestacks and tank farms release chemicals such as benzene, volatile organic compounds and other toxic pollutants into the air. At their least harmful, these chemical pollutants can irritate people’s eyes, noses, throats and lungs. But they can also cause cancer. It’s no surprise that tar sands is often called the dirtiest oil on the planet.

While Portland Pipe Line Corp., majority owned by Exxon-Mobil, has withdrawn the permit they need from the state of Maine in a supposed good faith effort to prove that they do not plan to bring tar sands to South Portland, it is impossible to trust them. They have used similar tactics in the past and its CEO has stated that the company would “love” to bring tar sands to Maine. We can’t take this latest tactic at face value. And we can’t sit back and do nothing.

Voting for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is our only chance to establish the legal safeguards we will need when Portland Pipeline decides to renew its permit. There is nothing at the local level to stop this tar sands export project unless we pass the ordinance. Let’s not forget, the city of South Portland has said they would grant Portland Pipeline a local permit.

Have you noticed the oil industry is not trying to convince us to support a tar sands project? They know that’s impossible. Instead, they are trying to get us to do nothing by voting against the ordinance – that’s a victory for them. It is critical that we pass the Waterfront Protection Ordinance so that South Portland is protected when Portland Pipeline reapplies for tar sands permits.

We all want our children to have a bright and healthy future. That’s why the oil industry’s tar sands project is an enormous threat to our community and the dreams we have for our kids. Right now, even while the oil holding tanks are mostly empty, and even without the 70-foot smoke stacks, a USA Today report lists South Portland’s school children at a greater than average risk of dangerous air pollution. We should be working to clean up our air and water, not make it more toxic. A vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is our chance to do that.

The bottom line is that the oil industry is not playing fair. It is not telling the truth about what the Waterfront Protection Ordinance does and does not do, nor are they being honest about their intentions. I urge all voters in South Portland to turn out on Nov. 5 and vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance. Our children deserve a fair chance to grow healthy and strong. We cannot allow misinformation and the profiteering of a giant oil company to jeopardize this. We cannot allow cheaters to prosper.

Margaret Donahue
South Portland

To the editor:

I have just received yet another “Vote No on the WPO” mailing. It urges me to vote to protect jobs, waterfront safety and vital community services. Why this extensive, expensive bombardment with these catch phrases? The oil industry has much to lose if this ordinance does not pass and this has little to do with the city of South Portland citizenry. As has been pointed out very clearly, several times, that current jobs and current business operations will not affected by the ordinance, so jobs are not the issue.

Waterfront safety is precisely what the Waterfront Protection Ordinance would protect. Spillage of tar sands would cause irreparable damage to our beautiful port, not to mention the water sources through which the pipeline passes, for example, Sebago Lake, our source of drinking water. The emissions spewed from the smoke stacks before exportation would invisibly permeate us and our surroundings. While we may not see the effects in our lifetime, these emissions will work their havoc over the long haul.

Finally, vital community services. When has the oil industry been responsible for these services? I have always considered our elected officials and the citizens of South Portland the responsible keepers of that task. Yes, the oil industry provides contributions to the communities where they do business, but I would venture to say it is small potatoes in comparison to the millions, if not billions they will gather for themselves if this ordinance is defeated – and they do not live in South Portland.

Let us have the courage to not be swayed by superficial, glossy rhetoric, but let us examine the facts and vote to protect our precious, beautiful waterfront.

A.M. Lemire
South Portland

To the editor:

If the companies that handle tar sands are not planning to use South Portland as an export site, which they keep insisting, why are they funneling more than $600,000 in cash and in-kind donations to keep the Waterfront Protection Ordinance from passing?

I don’t trust them and I don’t trust that they have our best interests, as a whole community, in mind. Their job is, simply, to answer to their stockholders by increasing their profits by whatever means they can. These large companies, not even our smaller energy companies, will make the lion’s share of profits while our community shoulders a massive amount of long-term environmental and financial risk.

Please, vote yes for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance. Let’s tell these powerful companies to stop exploiting the environment for short-term financial gain and to instead focus their substantial might and abilities to create and find sustainable energy sources through innovative research and development.

M.J. Benson
South Portland

To the editor:

The Waterfront Protection Ordinance affects a 63-year-old pipeline that stretches through Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. This pipeline was not designed for tar sands, a type of heavy, toxic oil. This is a public health issue for our entire region. Everyone voting next week should know these facts.

The pipeline enters Maine near Bethel and Sunday River. It crosses the Crooked River six times. It parallels the Androscoggin River for several miles. It passes within 50 feet of Sebago Lake, which supplies drinking water for 200,000 people in southern Maine. It ends in South Portland at the tank farm next to our schools.

I grew up in the Kalamazoo, Mich., area and have generations of family and friends there. As a South Portland resident, the vote next week on the waterfront protection ordinance is close to my heart. Go to www.votesopo.org to see actual videos and testimonies from Kalamazoo residents and others across the country who have suffered spills. Thirty-nine months and a billion dollars later the Kalamazoo River is still not cleaned up.

Joanne Larman
South Portland

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