WATERFORD — Voters at Saturday's annual town meeting passed a resolution opposing the transport of tar sands oil and changed the road commissioner position from elected to appointed.
In a 56-34 vote, Waterford became the third town in Maine to adopt a resolution opposing the transport of tar sands oil through the Portland-Montreal Pipeline. A total of 7.8 miles of the pipe runs through the town, crossing the crooked River watershed five times.
“This project is about money,” pipeline opponent Paula Easton said. She urged voters during a 90-minute discussion on the resolution not to take the “enormous” risk that she and others say could devastate the environment. “These risks are unacceptable and irreversible.”
The pipeline transports conventional crude oil from tanker ships in South Portland 236 miles to Montreal. It runs along and crosses some of Maine's most critical lake and river watersheds, including the Crooked River, Androscoggin River and Sebago Lake, which supplies greater Portland's drinking water.
Environmental advocates say they believe a plan is in the works to allow a Canadian oil pipeline company to pump tar sands oil through the 62-year-old Portland Pipeline for export to global markets.
Local environmental groups say they do not oppose the current use of the pipeline to ship conventional crude oil but oppose taking the spill risk they say is associated with any plan to ship tar sands oils through the line.
Portland Pipeline President Larry Wilson of Scarborough told voters Saturday that they have been given information riddled with “mistruths.”
He challenged the proponents' facts about the interests of Exxon Oil in the Portland Pipeline and the safety of the line.
There is no plan currently to reverse the flow and ship tar sands oil, Wilson said. He urged residents to hold off on a vote until a more thorough informational session could be presented.
“You have not heard the truth yet,” he said. While acknowledging that spills do happen, he said state and federal regulations require the company to clean it up.
“Spills are difficult; they're challenging," Wilson said. "Companies don't have the option of devastating the environment and walking away. You have to clean up the spill.”
A number of nonresidents spoke for and against the resolution, including Aaron Annable, consulate general of Canada who lives in Boston, and John Quinn of the New England Petroleum Council in Boston who spoke against adoption of the resolution.
Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Lee Dassler, executive director of the Western Foothills Land Trust, spoke in favor of the resolution.
In other action at the nearly five-hour meeting, voters passed a $1.2 million municipal budget, which is about 1.34 percent more than last year. Most of the increase was due to a recommendation that the paving budget be increased by $16,522.
The board said it expects the tax rate may increase significantly this year once the school budget and state budget are completed. Voters won't act on the school budget until June.
Voters agreed to change the position of road commissioner from elected to appointed, but amended the article to ensure that current Foreman Bradley Grover, whose term expires in 2014, can stay if he chooses.