BETHEL, Maine – Residents at the annual town meeting Wednesday voted to rescind a resolution stating Bethel’s opposition to allowing tar sands oil to be transported through town via pipeline.
The resolution was adopted at a town meeting Jan. 30 and said its purpose was to “protect the health and safety of local citizens, water-bodies, other natural resources, and our global climate in relation to the possible transport of tar sands oil through Bethel.”
A group of Bethel residents asked the Board of Selectmen to add the resolution to the Jan. 30 meeting warrant, because they were concerned about the possibility of the South Portland-to-Montreal Pipe Line carrying crude oil derived from diluted bitumen, also known as “dilbit.”
According to the residents, there are higher risks of oil spills from dilbit pipelines. They also voiced concerns about local economic impacts should dilbit oil spill from a section of the pipeline that crosses the Androscoggin River.
Discussion on the resolution ended quickly at the Jan. 30 meeting after a proponent of the resolution called for the question to be voted on 15 minutes after discussion began.
During the discussion, only proponents of the resolution spoke, leaving no time for the opponents to speak, including Larry Wilson, president and CEO of the Portland Pipe Line Corp.
On March 28, resident Bud Kulik began collecting signatures for a petition that would ask the town to rescind the resolution adopted on Jan. 30.
Sarah Southam, who teaches science at Telstar Regional High School, told residents prior to the vote that passing the resolution on Jan. 30 was “an important step that we took as a community to say that we do not want tar sands oil to be transported through Bethel.
“If we support the extraction of tar sands oil in Alberta, and the transportation of tar sands oil through the Montreal-Portland Pipe Line, we will lock ourselves into decades of more dependence on fossil fuel rather than focusing on cleaner, alternative energies,” Southam said.
She later pointed out that tar sands oil is “one of the dirtiest, carbon-intensive fuels” and gives off “14 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than the average oil.”
Jane Ryerson said, “I’ve lived here all my life. The pipeline has run through Albany all my life, and never in my 59 years has there been any type of spill. You should vote to rescind this because the process was flawed from the beginning. Both sides were not seen and both sides were not given a chance to weigh the pros and cons. In fairness to the other side, this should be rescinded.”
Ron Savage called proponents of the resolution “hypocrites.”
“Probably 95 percent of us drove here tonight,” Savage said. “It seems a bit hypocritical that we can use fuel to get here, yet we want the pipeline to be in everybody else’s neighborhood but not ours. The company in Canada has a good business model, they have a good safety record. I’m in favor of rescinding.”
Following an 75 minutes of discussion, moderator Harry “Dutch” Dresser called for a vote.
According to Dresser and Doar, the next step will be for the town to send letters to the companies and individuals that the resolution was originally sent to announce the resolution has been rescinded.