2014-07-11 / Letters

No justification?

To the editor:

An exasperated sigh and roll of the eyes following the prepared statement of Burt Russell, vice president of operations at Sprague Energy, after South Portland’s work. shop on the Draft Ordinance Committee’s Clear Skies draft ordinance on Wednesday, June 25. Mr. Russell made the distinctly dubious claim that “there is no justification for such a prohibition, especially when this product has been safely transported, transloaded and stored on the waterfront for decades.”

For your information, there is no such word as “transload.”

This is the same Burt Russell who had the audacity to stand up at a city council meeting last year and denigrate our former mayor, Tom Blake, simply for his stance on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance. A resident immediately admonished him, stating that, since Russell was a resident of New Hampshire, he really had no right to criticize any of our elected officials. This well-deserved rebuke met with a spontaneous round of applause, forcing Russell to skulk out of the room.

Now Russell is back, arrogantly suggesting that we South Portlanders have no right to conduct our own affairs, especially if they run counter to his (and Big Oil’s) plans.

Let’s take another look at his prepared statement:

 “... there is no justification for such a prohibition... ”

So Russell is telling us that there is no “justification” for prohibiting the piping in of corrosive tar/oil sands through a 60-plus-year-old pipeline, releasing toxins and carcinogens into our air, allowing ballast from foreign shores to be dumped into our waters, and exporting this crude oil overseas to foreign – not American – markets?

What more justification do we require? Continuing on...

 “... especially when this product has been safely transported, transloaded and stored on the waterfront for decades.”

Again, Russell, like many of his colleagues, persists in simply stating falsehoods with no verifiable facts to back them up. Here’s what I have gleaned from my research online:

The Canadian province of Alberta, from which most of the tar sands is being extracted, has had 28,666 crude oil spills since 1975. That’s an average of 2 spills per day for 39 years (nearly four decades).

The spills in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas amply demonstrate that tar sands is much more toxic and difficult to clean up than conventional crude. If a spill were to occur off our coastline from an oil tanker loaded with tar sands crude, it would devastate Maine’s fisheries, communities and economy.

The Volatile Combustion Units (VCUs/smokestacks), the required method of controlling vapors from the handling, storage or loading of volatile liquids when recovery of the vapors is not a viable option, would release into our air a veritable cocktail of toxins, including benzene (exposure to benzene has been linked to various cancers, bone marrow problems, excessive bleeding and immune system disorders, and may affect fertility in women) and toluene (Toluene can cause brain, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, memory impairment and attention deficits).

The remainder of the list of chemicals that would pollute our air is deemed proprietary, which the public is not privy to.

The falsehoods that Russell continues to spout, like a leaky pipeline, will hopefully be seen by the majority of South Portland residents (as well as its city councilors) for what they are – a last ditch effort by an unscrupulous industry that cares only for its shareholders, rather than for those who it would force to live, and choke, under the shadow of its belching smokestacks.

William Duffy
South Portland

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