Yesterday, in the largest protest in the Northeast against tar sands, hundreds of people from Maine, New England and Canada carried signs and marched across Portland to rally at the Maine State Pier.
The rally and march were held to oppose an emerging proposal to send dirty tar sands oil through the 236-mile long, 62-year-old Exxon/Enbridge pipeline across Canada, Maine and New England. Specifically, participants called on elected officials and the U.S. State Department to require a new Presidential Permit application and full environmental review before the company could reverse the pipeline to carry tar sands. Unless the State Department decides to require a new Presidential Permit, there may not be a permit application, adequate public input or environmental review in store for this line reversal and change to pipe tar sands oil.
Speakers addressed the crowds at the rally on Maine State Pier, against the backdrop of oil tanks and tankers in Casco Bay.
Photo by Erik Hoffner - www.erikhoffner.com
“Reversing the flow of the Portland Pipeline so tar sands oil can be delivered to Portland Harbor would pose some serious environmental risks and I'm going to ask the Obama Administration to do a full environmental review of any attempts to pump tar sands through that pipeline,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME). “Exxon Mobile shouldn't be allowed to go ahead with this risky scheme without a Presidential Permit and I don't believe the facts will support one.”
“With climate change once again at the forefront of our minds, it is crucial that we work together to end our dependence upon on foreign oil and keep our community free of fuels like tar sands,” said Portland Mayor Michael Brennan. “We need to work together to expand the market for renewable energy and eliminate the demand for tar sands and other fuels that are not only a root cause for climate change, but also carry real risks of pollution and spills in our backyard.” Portland City Council members are now considering a measure that would ensure the city does not use fuel made from tar sands oil in its vehicles or buildings.
“I’m so proud to be here today to say ‘no’ to tar sands in Maine. The people of Casco have spoken that tar sands would be a bad deal. There is too much at risk for our town and our welfare.” said Connie Cross, a resident of Casco. Casco was the first Maine town to vote against the pipeline at its town meeting in December 2012. Several other towns are considering similar resolutions.
“Vermont’s largest city wanted to take a stand on tars sands by keeping Burlington and Vermont tar sands free,” said Burlington City Councilor Maxwell Tracy. “We stand with New England, and believe that New England should work together to keep the east tar sands free.” The city of Burlington recently passed a comprehensive anti-tar sands/pipeline resolution.
“People ask me about the scientific imperative to address climate change.” said Unity College President Stephen Mulkey. “Actually science doesn’t tell us what to do—it tells us about some of the disastrous consequences of doing nothing. This is a moral and practical imperative. That we must have this rally and march is evidence that our leaders are having the wrong discussion. This tar sands pipeline should simply be unthinkable at this stage of the climate crisis. We are out of time, and our kids will hold us accountable." Unity College was the first college in the nation to divest its endowment from fossil fuels.
“As a landowner living along the Crooked River and near the pipeline I absolutely oppose sending toxic tar sands through this pipeline,” said Lee Margolin a landowner and business owner in Harrison. “The increased risk of a toxic tar sands spill is a health concern for me and my family first and foremost. I also own a small brewery that depends on clean water—I’m just one of thousands of businesses in the region that depends on a clean environment and clean water.”
“Today people from across Maine and the northeast are sending a clear signal that tar sands doesn’t belong here,” said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “A tar sands pipeline would be far too dangerous for our waters, our health, our climate, our economy.”
The history of disastrous tar sands pipeline spills and escalating extreme weather disasters from fossil fuel-driven climate change, make tar sands oil especially risky.
The rally was held to demonstrate a wall of opposition to this risky proposal and to call on federal officials to ensure there is a full environmental review of this project—because the threats are too great for the environment and economy of Maine, New England, Canada and the Earth.
Maine is threatened by the emerging proposal to reverse the direction of an ExxonMobil/Enbridge oil pipeline and to start sending tar sands through it instead. The pipeline runs through Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to Portland Harbor. In Maine, the pipeline passes next to Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for more than 15 percent of Mainers, crosses the Androscoggin and Crooked Rivers, and ends at Casco Bay, where it could endanger fishing and lobster industries.
Heavy, thick tar sands oil is more toxic, corrosive and dangerous to ship through pipelines, putting the region’s environment, water quality and economy at risk. Tar sands oil is diluted with toxic chemicals like benzene, and per mile of pipe, tar sands pipelines have leaked or spilled at three times the rate of conventional oil pipelines. When tar sands does spill, it causes more damage to the health of people and our environment by sinking into sediments and releasing toxic gases. Tar sands oil spills are also nearly impossible to clean-up, even at enormous expense, as evidenced by the 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. That spill is still being cleaned today, at a cost of more than $725 million and counting. Even in its more refined form of “Synthetic Crude Oil,” tar sands has a massive environmental and climate footprint.
Worrisome signs all point emerging threat of tar sands to Maine and New England:
- In November 2012, Enbridge applied for permission to reverse and expand the portion of the pipeline across Ontario and Quebec ending in Montreal, specifically seeking permission to carry tar sands.
- An oil company affiliated with the Portland Pipe Line has an application pending for a pumping station in Quebec whose sole purpose would be to send oil south through New England.
- Over the last several months, officials with the pipeline company have handed out information touting tar sands oil to towns along the pipeline, while their oil industry allies have sent opinion pieces to Maine newspapers defending tar sands.
- In late 2011 the pipeline company and lobbyists for tar sands met with Maine Governor Paul LePage to promote tar sands oil, according to documents obtained through Maine’s Freedom of Access Law.
- In January 2013 the company publicly opposed a proposed resolution for the City of Portland to avoid purchase of fuels derived from tar sands.
- Research uncovered the fact that the pipeline running through New England—the Portland-Montreal Pipeline—is controlled by ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil has direct interests in the tar sands and a poor environmental track record in pursuit of its massive profits.
"Unless we raise our voices and insist this reckless pipeline project is thoroughly reviewed and then rejected, it will go forward without ever considering the massive potential impacts to Sebago Lake, Casco Bay and our climate,” said Environment Maine director Emily Figdor. “It may take an army of us to go toe-to-toe with ExxonMobil, the biggest of Big Oil, but together we can convince President Obama to stop the project, protect the waterways we love and tackle the climate crisis."
“Landowners in the Western foothills have been partnering with the land trusts protecting the Crooked River watershed for years to conserve precious lands and waters in Western Maine, to protect essential fisheries and to insure clean drinking water for the greater Portland area,” said Lee Dassler, executive director of the Western Foothills Land Trust. “We treasure and depend on a clean environment with public access, for recreation, for family and cultural traditions, and to help support our economy. A tar sands pipeline could place those efforts at risk. We need to keep tar sands out of Maine.”
For more photos from yesterday's event, click here.
A grim new assessment of the world's flora and fungi has found that two-fifths of its species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, as The Guardian reported. That puts the number of species at risk near 140,000.
- Climate Crisis Could Cause a Third of Plant and Animal Species to ... ›
- World Leaders Urged to 'Act Now' to Save Biodiversity - EcoWatch ›
- Bumblebees Face Extinction From the Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Plant Extinction Is Happening 500x Faster Than Before the Industrial ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As human activity transforms the atmosphere, flowers are changing their colors.
- The Best Plants to Attract Pollinators, by Region - EcoWatch ›
- Corals Turn Bright Neon in Last-Ditch Effort to Survive - EcoWatch ›
- Hummingbirds Live in a More Colorful World, Study Confirms ... ›
By Sharon Zhang
Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.
A rare celestial event was caught on camera last week when a meteoroid "bounced" off Earth's atmosphere and veered back into space.
- Asteroid Could Strike Earth Before Election Day But Won't Cause ... ›
- Water May Have Originated on Earth, Study Finds - EcoWatch ›
By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>