Environment Maine Statement on Historic Tar Sands Vote Tonight

Media Contacts
Taryn Hallweaver



For Immediate Release: 10:00 a.m., July 21, 2014

Contact: Taryn Hallweaver, Environment Maine, 207-712-6351



Environment Maine Statement on Historic Tar Sands Vote Tonight


Portland—The South Portland City Council tonight will take its final vote on the Clear Skies Ordinance, a narrow ordinance that will prohibit the bulk loading of crude oil, including tar sands, onto tankers on the waterfront, as well as new related infrastructure in the city. In anticipation of the vote, Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor released the following statement:


“We’re optimistic that tonight citizens working to protect their community will prevail over Big Oil. It will be a true David versus Goliath victory.


“The oil industry is not invincible, and the exploitation of tar sands is not inevitable. From Nebraska to Maine, citizens are standing up, and powerfully so, to protect their communities—and we are winning.


 “The Clear Skies Ordinance will protect air quality and prevent a beautiful stretch of our coast from transformed by two towering smokestacks. It will keep the dirtiest oil on earth from being stored next to our schools and handled on our waterfront. The bottom line is simple: There will be no tar sands in South Portland.


“Tonight’s victory will belong first and foremost to the extraordinary leaders of Protect South Portland who showed all of Maine, and indeed the world, what a small group of committed citizens can together accomplish. Their dedication, gumption, and commitment to their community is inspiring and leaves us full of hope for the future.


“Environment Maine has been so honored to work day in and day out with Protect South Portland to achieve this extraordinary outcome. We’ve come incredibly far in such a short time—from a handful of people at the very first meeting a year and a half ago in a living room to tonight’s vote in the community center with hundreds of supporters.


“We are deeply grateful to Mayor Jerry Jalbert and the City Council for their visionary and courageous leadership. The people spoke, and the city both listened and acted. Democracy is alive and well in South Portland!


“Big Oil has massive expansion plans for the extraction, transport, and refining of tar sands and that requires new infrastructure, such as pipelines and terminals, which have serious local impacts. South Portland’s action makes clear that communities are not going to just accept these impacts. We’re hopeful that South Portland’s action will empower other communities threatened by new tar sands infrastructure to protect themselves.” 




Environment Maine works on behalf of its 20,000 members and supporters to protect Maine’s environment. For more information, please visit www.environmentmaine.org




-Bulk loading tar sands onto tankers would increase air pollution both on South Portland’s waterfront and at tank farms interwoven in the community.


-The combustion smokestacks needed for bulk loading would emit volatile organic compounds, including hazardous air pollutants, like benzene, which cause cancer and other serious health problems at very low-levels of exposure. Volatile organic compounds also mix with sunlight and other chemicals to form smog, a potent lung irritant that contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular problems from asthma attacks to premature deaths.


– South Portland already struggles with poor air quality. Cumberland County received a grade of C from the American Lung Association this year for elevated levels of smog.


-The combustion smokestacks, at 70-feet tall, would be the tallest in the city and near Bug Light Park, Willard Beach, Fisherman’s Point, and the Greenbelt Walkway, harming scenic views and property values.


-The South Portland Planning Board found in a 6-1 vote that the Clear Skies Ordinance is consistent with South Portland’s comprehensive plan, which is rooted in a decades-long planning process.


-The South Portland City Council passed in December 2013 a short-term moratorium on permitting or constructing new infrastructure to bulk load tar sands onto tankers in the city, after the oil industry spent $750,000 last fall to narrowly defeat a citizen’s initiative on tar sands by attacking it as overly broad.


– The Council established a Draft Ordinance Committee (comprised of three volunteer experts on land use, law, science and environmental management and a moderator) to develop a new ordinance, and the committee met 20 times over several months in a highly transparent process that took great pains to involve all stakeholders.