I "Saw" A Pipeline

This summer, I am interning with the Sierra Club to oppose the Trailbreaker proposal (click here for more information on Trailbreaker).  Yesterday, I went with another Sierra Club volunteer and a professional photographer, Steve Demetriou, to take pictures along the pipeline route in Southern Maine. Our goal: to document how and where the pipeline cuts through communities and ecosystems.

Perhaps naively, I imagined a large metal above-ground pipe charging through Maine’s lush woods, leaping across rivers, and surrounding meadows. In other words: I thought that the pipeline route would be obvious. Instead, the three of us were driving along, and the other volunteer pointed out a yellow metal pole–about 3 feet high–on a hill in the distance. “There she blows,” the other volunteer said.

This was not what I expected. Large swaths of land hand been cleared as if transmission lines were going to be installed. The yellow poles were staked at regular intervals right in the middle of the clearing. The pipeline was underground, snaking it’s way through Maine and ultimately to Canada.

We followed the pipeline through backroads and woods. Up close, these yellow poles said “Warning: Crude Oil Pipeline.” Sometimes there were also small circular yellow signs with “Warning” written in red. Every once in a while, we would be driving and come up to a huge pumping station in the middle of the woods. It looked like a high-secuirty prison, with tall fences, barbed wire, and almost no sign of life inside. Just pipes with what I knew to be poisonous fossil fuels inside.

One of the major dangers concerning this pipeline is the proximity to various water sources. We walked down to Crooked River. There was a yellow post on one bank, and then another yellow post on the other side. Ergo, the pipeline is buried underneath the river. This particular river runs into Big Sebago Lake, a major tourist and recreational hub and a main drinking source for Portland. We also photographed where the pipeline crossed the Androscoggin River,  which ultimately empties into the ocean. If the pipeline burst along either of these rivers, the ramifications would be catastrophic and widespread.

I was also surprised at how surreptitious the pipeline was. I didn’t expect Enbridge to put up big “Warning” signs with some educational pamphlets about crude oil. But, if I had not been looking for a pipeline or taken notice of the yellow posts in the ground, I would never have known that pipe was transporting dangerous material, under my feet, under a river, and under homes. The entire process is sneaky and underground (pun intended), and it really scared me. Yesterday was a first-hand look at the subtle maneuvering of the fossil fuel industry.

Here are some pictures that I took yesterday. You can also see pictures on Steve’s website.  

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