South Portland tar sands moratorium as US reconsiders Alberta crude imports

South Portland, Maine presses Pause on tar-sands shipping as US re-evaluates its need for crude oil imports.

Tar sands protest in Oregon: detail from Democracy Now! video clip.

Maine city says "No" to tar sands transit

South Portland, Maine City Council voted 6-1 to impose a six-month moratorium on any construction needed to load tar-sands bitumen onto ships along its shore. By the time the moratorium expires, the city hopes to have drafted new legislation that would completely ban tar-sands oil products from entering South Portland via the Montreal-Portland Pipeline.

(Portland-Montreal Pipeline, Wikimedia Commons)

“I wanted to rush the stage because I felt you had risen to the level of rock stars,” said PJ Cragin of Smith Street, describing her reaction to creation of the draft ordinance committee, and following it up with her assessment of Monday’s moratorium vote.

Blocking the road in Oregon

It's not just an east-coast thing. 16 protesters were arrested near John Day, Oregon after locking themselves to two disabled vehicles, thus blockading equipment from heading up to the Alberta tar sands. Portland Rising Tide, which organized the protest, said that the action was their sixth against tar sands shipments in the Pacific Northwest in just over two weeks.

The 901,000 pound megaload is hauling a heat exchanger to the Athabasca oil fields in Alberta, Canada. The load is 22 feet wide, 18 feet tall and 376 feet in length. A similarly-sized load toppled last week in Gladstone, OR, blocking part of I-205 for hours.

It's also a southern thing. Mobile, Alabama is considering a South-Portland-style tar-sands storage moratorium, even as the city battles over a rerouted pipeline just a mile from its watershed.

Reconsidering the tar sands in Washington

The US Department of Energy is also reconsidering its need for Alberta's crude. Imports in 2016 will be one million barrels per day lower than had been projected in April, the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Monday in its preliminary annual energy outlook for 2014 and beyond.

This downsizing is due to the USA's renewed look at fossil-fuel extraction and processing from within its own borders.

So it's not that the USA doesn't need oil; just that it doesn't need quite so much of Alberta's oil.

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