Three Maine protesters arrested in demonstration against oil pipeline

Posted Sept. 02, 2011, at 6:39 p.m.

At least three people from Maine were arrested Friday in Washington, D.C., while protesting a proposed $7 billion oil pipeline that would run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Diane Messer of Liberty said Friday in a telephone interview that she and fellow environmental activist Susan Lehnen of Baring had been arrested in the civil disobedience protest along with Ken Hotopp of Bethel. They were among 1,009 detained during the two-week-long action, a number that included movie star Daryl Hannah, Vermont activist and author Bill McKibben and other Mainers, including Andy Burt of Edgecomb, who was arrested on Aug. 21.

Messer said she believes that the project would do irrevocable harm to the planet in terms of carbon dioxide pollution.

“We’re not [protesting] because we’re rabble-rousers or because we’re looking for glory,” she said. “We’re doing it literally to sustain life for the future — a liveable life.”

She and others want President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.

TransCanada says its pipeline would provide jobs and needed oil.

Some in Maine believe that oil from Canadian tar sands may flow to shipping terminals in Portland if a different Canadian pipeline’s proposal to enable energy shipments to refineries in the East is allowed. The Natural Resources Council of Maine joined four other environmental organizations from the U.S. and Canada in filing a complaint with the Canadian National Energy Board about the proposal by Calgary-based oil company Enbridge.

According to a report from the AP on Thursday, there are signs that the Obama administration appears likely to back the Keystone XL proposal.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Canada’s status as a close U.S. ally may help win approval of the pipeline plan.

He said that importing oil from Canada is “much more comforting than to have other countries supply our oil.”

But Messer said that the process of extracting oil from the tar sands is very energy-intensive and also very polluting.

“It will put us on a collision path with an unsustainable climate,” she said. “Water will become more scarce, plants will start failing. We see what is ahead in the very near future if we allow this pipeline to go through.”

The arrest itself was orderly, according to the activist. The U.S. Park Police were “respectful” as they snapped plastic handcuffs on her and ushered her first to a bus and then to the Anacostia Jail in Washington, D.C. Messer had brought $100 with her, the amount that she paid in a fine in order to be released, which happened within 40 minutes.

“There was no rough treatment,” she said of the law enforcement officials. “I think there was unspoken support there.”

She and Lehnen will return to the White House on Saturday, the protest’s last day, to show solidarity for the cause. But they won’t try to get arrested again, as it is not possible to simply pay a fine to be freed from jail the second time around.

They hope that other people in Maine will take note of what’s happening in the capitol and learn more about the pipeline.

“We want to get everyone aware,” Messer said. “We want to stop it, period. We want to put the focus on renewables and stop government subsidies for fossil fuels.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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