- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Opinion: Enbridge eyeing Maine

Many Mainers may not have heard of Enbridge. But they will.

Enbridge is a gigantic Canadian energy company with its sights on Maine.

Enbridge was launched in 1949 to pipe crude oil about 500 miles from Leduc to Regina in Canada. Over the past six decades, the company has expanded enormously. Today, Enbridge operates “the world’s longest, most sophisticated crude oil and liquids transportation system,” moving more than two million barrels of oil every day. [1]

Enbridge is not only into transporting oil and gas. They also generate and distribute energy.

Enbridge generates power with four solar projects, a geothermal installation, and four waste heat recovery facilities. The company also has 10 operating wind projects and two more under construction. [2] Now, Enbridge is looking to expand into hybrid fuel cells. [3]

As for distribution, Enbridge controls Canada’s largest natural gas distribution network, which provides gas to Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Vermont and New York. [1]

What does this have to do with Maine?

In 2008, Enbridge applied to reverse the flow of petroleum in its Line 9 pipeline to move crude oil to Montreal. [4] The project was put on hold for a few years because of the recession. [5]

However, two years ago, Enbridge’s CEO, Patrick Daniel, revealed that the company still wanted to re-reverse their Line 9 pipeline to move oil east to Montreal. In an interview in October 2011, Daniel told Bloomberg News that “from Montreal, crude could move to Portland, Maine on the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line system, which also would have to be reversed, and then loaded on tankers for transport to refineries in Philadelphia and other destinations.” [6]

The Portland Pipe Line Corp., which owns the U.S. section of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, is a wholly owned subsidiary of MPLL. A direct subsidiary of ExxonMobil, called Imperial Oil Limited, holds a majority interest (76%) in the pipeline; the other 24% is owned by Suncor Energy, a Canadian conglomerate. [7]

The prospect of crude oil being piped to Portland has mobilized citizens in Maine and beyond. In late January 2013, upwards of 1400 people rallied in Portland on one of the coldest days of the winter to protest the possibility of tar sands oil being piped from Montreal to Casco Bay. [8]

Another protest was held at Sebago Lake on July 20, 2013. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of the first non-technical book on global climate change, gave an impassioned talk there to 200 citizens. [9] Sebago Lake provides drinking water to 200,000 people in 11 communities served by the Portland Water District so an oil spill in the watershed could be catastrophic. The Portland-Montreal Pipe Line runs through the Sebago Lake watershed. [10]

Indeed, the fear of an oil spill is not just theoretical. A pipeline operated by Enbridge burst and flowed into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, three years ago. A six-foot break in the pipeline resulted in the largest on-land oil spill, and one of the costliest spills, in U.S. history. Thirty-five miles of the river were closed for clean up, which is still ongoing. [11]

Like other oil pipeline companies, Enbridge has a history of spills. Another occurred last month when an Enbridge pipeline in Alberta leaked hundreds of barrels of synthetic crude oil. In fact, in June 2013 Kinder Morgan Energy Partners reported a leak on its Trans Mountain pipeline, Apache Corp. disclosed a spill in Alberta that released 2.5 million gallons of contaminated water, and Plains All American Pipeline had to close a line after a spill in Alberta of about 1,000 barrels of oil. [12]

Maine’s two congressional representatives have said that transporting tar sands oil through the 236-mile Portland-Montreal pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border would represent a fundamental change in the function and environmental risk of the line, therefore a presidential permit should be required and new environment impact statement should be done. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud joined other members of Congress in a letter sent in February to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their concerns. [13]

While there has been much focus on possible problems with piping oil across Maine, moving it by rail has expanded exponentially. All seven of Maine’s active freight rail lines are authorized to ship petroleum products. Two railways have been have been doing it. [14]

Pan Am Railways and Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways shipped more than 5 million barrels of oil across Maine to the Maritime Provinces last year. [15]

The risks associated with shipping oil by rail was emphatically brought home on July 6 by a massive train wreck in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, just a few miles from the Maine border. Nearly four dozen people were killed when 73 cars derailed causing multiple explosions. [16] The train had been scheduled to cross Maine the next day on its way to an Irving refinery in New Brunswick.

I went to Lac-Megantic a few days after the train wreck to see the devastation first-hand. The town center was blocked off while workers search for the remains of the 47 people killed. However, even from the sidelines the core of the community looked like photos of Dresden after the Allies carpet-bombed that German city in World War II.

Some have argued that the Lac-Megantic disaster underscores that shipping oil by pipeline is safer than by rail. But both pipelines and rail lines have a history that suggests neither is safe.

Maine is in the way of a lot of new development schemes. Developers are eyeing Maine for more oil and gas pipelines, bulk water pipelines, private superhighways, liquefied gas terminals, industrial wind power projects, sprawling electrical transmission lines, toxic waste dumps, forest chipping operations, massive open pit mines, military flight testing, civilian space flight testing, and other projects that would have a big impact on our natural and human communities.

Mainers need to keep an eye on Enbridge and all the other corporate interests looking to exploit our state, for they surely are eyeing us.


[1] Enbridge website, http://www.enbridge.com/AboutEnbridge/CorporateOverview/Historical-Highlights.aspx

[2] Enbridge Acquires Third Quebec Wind Project, Bloomberg News, July 22, 2013, http://3blmedia.com/News/Energy/Enbridge-Acquires-Third-Quebec-Wind-Project

[3] Enbridge U.S. Operations, http://www.enbridgeus.com/About-Enbridge/Company-Overview/

[4] Portland: Traffic Switch?, Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports, 16 Feb 2008, http://www.atlanticnortheast.com/onl/iss/08_01B.pdf

[5] Sierra Club, Enbridge Trailbreaker Pipeline, http://www.sierraclub.org/dirtyfuels/tar-sands/field-maine.pdf

[6] Brad Olson and Jeremy van Loon, Enbridge Talking With Valero on East Coast Pipeline Reversal, Bloomberg News, October 5, 2011.

[7] Natural Resources Council of Maine et al, ExxonMobil is Actually Majority Owner of Maine Pipeline and Behind Plan to Transport Dangerous Tar Sands October 10, 2012, http://www.nrcm.org/news_detail.asp?news=5004
[8] Clarke Canfield, Portland, Maine Tar Sands Protest Sees Over 1,000 Rally Against Proposed Pipeline From Montreal, Associated Press, Jan 26, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/26/portland-maine-tar-sands-protest_n_2558694.html

[9] Beth Quimby, Tar sands protest at Sebago Lake lures 200, Portland Press Herald, July 20, 2013, http://www.pressherald.com/news/Tar-sands-oil-rally-draws-200-to-Sebago-Lake.html?pageType=mobile&id=1

[10] Gary Libby, Alberta tar sands oil, Sebago Lake drinking water don’t mix, Portland Press Herald, Oct 24, 2012, http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/alberta-tar-sands-oil-sebago-lake-drinking-water-dont-mix_2012-10-24.html

[11] Kalamazoo River oil spill, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalamazoo_River_oil_spill

[12] Chip Cummins, Enbridge Shuts Canadian Pipeline After Oil Spill, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323683504578563450142548548.html

[13] Letter from 18 U.S. Senators and Representatives to John Kerry, February 26, 2013 [mistakenly dated 2012], https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/608663-tar-sands-through-ne-to-secretary-kerry.html

[14] Dave Sherwood, Maine has no plans to halt oil rail, Reuters, July 8, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/08/us-train-maine-idUSBRE9670PU20130708

[15] Steve Mistler and Tom Bell, Is Maine on top of oil-by-rail risks?, Portland Press Herald, July 12, 2013, http://www.pressherald.com/news/is-maine-on-top-of-oil-by-rail-risks_2013-07-12.html?pagenum=full

[16] Holly Ramer, Train derailment spills oil in Quebec. Will it affect Maine?, Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 2013, http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Latest-News-Wires/2013/0707/Train-derailment-spills-oil-in-Quebec.-Will-it-affect-Maine