Hundreds protest the prospect of a tar sands pipeline running through Maine at a rally in January, 2013.
PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Hundreds of protestors descended on downtown Portland Saturday for a rally, calling for an end to tar sands oil extraction.
Tar sands oil opponents say the process to harvest tar sands oil irreversibly harms sensitive forest lands, uses a substantial amount of energy to gather and refine, and adds greatly to the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere helping speed up the process of climate change.
"This is the last, best chance we have to keep the oil in the ground," said Harvey Ammerman. "We have to move on to solar, wind and tidal power alternative energy. We can't burn this planet up."
"I'm concerned about the future of the planet," said Larry Hamilton, who traveled to Maine from Vermont for the rally. "The future for my children, for my grandchildren, because the tar sands, the whole operation in Alberta, is a total disaster for tipping us toward inevitable global catastrophe."
The protestors chose Portland to stage their rally in because they believe the Portland Montreal Pipeline Company is planning to reverse the flow of its pipeline and pump tar sands oil from Canada to ships in Casco Bay, where the oil can be transported to refineries along the East Coast and in the Canadian Maritimes.
Judy Berk with the Natural Resources Council of Maine says energy company representatives have met with Governor Paul LePage to discuss the possibility of reversing the pipeline's flow and have been handing out pamphlets touting the benefits of tar sands oil to residents and towns in Maine that the pipeline passes through.
She says while there may be no permit actively pending, all signs point to it happening because the energy companies that control the pipeline have interests involved in tar sands oil extraction in the western Canadian province of Alberta.
Ted O'Meara, a spokesperson for the Portland Montreal Pipeline, says there is no current plan or project in the works to pump tar sands oil into Maine via their pipeline. He says the pipeline has its own management and sets its rules and procedures, not Exxon Mobile as protestors claim.
He says while they continue to explore ways to use the pipeline which currently pumps crude oil from South Portland to Montreal, and that there could be a plan for reversal in the future, there are no plans to do so currently.
O'Meara says if the pipeline were to decide to pump tar sands oil into Maine, they would be very public with those plans and allow for an open discussion.
Protestors say they believe tar sands oil harvesting not only pollutes the environment, but continues to enable our addiction to oil and fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. They say the money being invested by energy companies to extract tar sands oil would be better used to create more renewable and environmentally friendly forms of energy generation.