2014-05-23 / Letters

‘Fuel makes it all possible’

To the editor:

For more than a century, South Portland’s working waterfront has been Maine’s most important link to global energy markets. While advancements in technology, newfound resources and consumer demands have changed these markets over time, the importance of this vital link persists now and into the future.

I am a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, a marinemechanical engineer and the former House chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, and I have spent my professional life working to meet Maine’s energy needs. I write today as a member of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s Environmental and Energy Policy Committee to share a statewide perspective on the importance of South Portland’s working waterfront.

There are two absolutes in the energy sector. The first is our absolute reliance on energy to fuel every sector of our economy, power our vehicles and heat our homes. We live in one of the coldest, most rural states in the country. Every priority in the public or private sector is tied to energy.

Economic development, feeding the hungry, educating our kids, expanding our tax base – fuel makes it all possible.

For decades South Portland has played a critical role in getting that fuel to our manufacturers, gas stations and our homes. The infrastructure that safely stores and transports these products from ships along the waterfront in South Portland has been maintained thanks to collaboration among community leaders, industry interests and regulators.

A billion gallons of petroleum products destined for local markets flow through South Portland’s waterfront terminals. Losing this capacity could cost more than 5,000 jobs and reduce income across the Maine economy by over $250 million. Recognizing these costs as well as the impact on local jobs and tax revenue, South Portland voters rightfully came to the defense of the working waterfront last fall and defeated the so-called Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

The second absolute in the energy sector is change.

Energy markets are always evolving to reflect technological advancements, resource discoveries, regulatory requirements and consumer demand. We must have a regulatory framework in place that allows infrastructure to be maintained, updated and reconfigured to react to changes that occur on a global scale.

One of the most exciting changes occurring in energy markets today is the advancements in technology that will bring more domestic and North American supplies of natural gas and petroleum to markets. Energy resources tapped here at home and in Canada are abundant and are subject to the world’s most comprehensive environmental regulations, ensuring a cleaner supply of energy and less impact on the planet.

Change in global energy markets can also be driven by geopolitical conflict and competing international interests. Our economic interests and national security has been tested because of our reliance on energy from overseas in the past and it is not beyond the unexpected for similar events to occur in the future.

North American supplies of energy are far more secure. It is in our economic and strategic interests to ensure that we develop the infrastructure needed to access this energy rather than hope that foreign powers will concern themselves with our access to energy or the price we pay for it.

One of the most abundant supplies of energy on our continent is the crude oil in the oil sands formations in western Canada, commonly mislabeled “tar sands” by those who oppose the development of this resource. It is the third-largest supply of crude in the world and is already a safe and reliable part of our fuel mix today.

The city of South Portland has placed a moratorium on development along the working waterfront to consider an ordinance relating to the handling of oil sands crude. This was a reasonable step given the rhetoric leading to last fall’s vote on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

The time that has passed since the contentious debate last fall has given the community time to reset and reflect, but the energy sector absolutes and the statewide importance of South Portland’s working waterfront persists.

There is a way forward in South Portland that can protect the community’s interests while maintaining our link to current and future energy resources. On behalf of the business interests represented by the Maine State Chamber we urge a collaborative approach that keeps our links to tomorrow’s supplies of energy open for future consideration.

Stacey Fitts

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