So. Portland City Council Votes to Put Tar Sands Initiative on November’s Ballot

Hundreds of Citizens Gathered to Urge City Council to Let the People Decide this November

Environment Maine

South Portland—The South Portland City Council tonight voted 6-0 to place a citizen’s initiative, the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, on this November’s ballot. The ordinance will prevent the oil industry from constructing new oil infrastructure, including two 70-foot smokestacks on the pier next to Bug Light, needed to export tar sands out of South Portland.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that the City Council listened to the people tonight and sent our citizen’s initiative to the ballot this November. It’s democracy at its best when neighbors can come together to protect their community from Big Oil’s reckless plans to export tar sands out of South Portland,” said Roberta Zuckerman of Protect South Portland (formerly known as Concerned Citizens of South Portland). 

Hundreds of South Portland citizens as well as business owners, realtors, teachers, health care professionals, and others attended the City Council’s public hearing prior to the vote.

“Support tonight for the citizen’s initiative was overwhelming,” said Rachel Burger of Protect South Portland. “Toxic tar sands stored in tanks around our schools is just unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it.”

“As a real estate developer, I can tell you that two 70-foot smokestacks would have a negative impact on property values within the neighborhoods nearby and the community as a whole,” said Sarah Lachance, a Southern Maine real estate developer. “Developers will think twice about making real estate investments if this project goes through. Some local citizens even said tonight they would consider moving if the oil industry is successful in exporting tar sands out of South Portland.” 

The citizen’s initiative would change South Portland’s zoning ordinance to prevent the oil industry from constructing two towering tar sands smokestacks on the pier next to Bug Light and a pumping station next to the Kaler Elementary School. The smokestacks would burn off dangerous air pollutants, known as VOCs, and air toxics as the tar sands is loaded onto tankers for export. 

In June, local citizens collected nearly 4,000 signatures – four times the number required – to put the initiative on the ballot, and did so in just 11 days.

“I was born after most of you, and when you’re not around anymore my generation will still be here cleaning up the messes you’re deciding to make right now,” said 12-year-old Max Saffer-Meng of South Portland. “South Portland is a great place to live. Two 70-foot tar sands smokestacks at a famous lighthouse is not the future I want for my community.”

The oil industry’s lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations consultants are aggressively attacking the citizen’s initiative, making unfounded and exaggerated claims about it. In reality, the ordinance is narrowly crafted – it applies only to petroleum-related businesses and facilities, and it does not change restrict or limit any existing business activity.

“Tonight we showed that people can come together to make a difference in our community,” said Cathy Chapman of Protect South Portland. “I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing grassroots effort to stop Big Oil from exporting tar sands out of South Portland. I encourage everyone in South Portland to vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance on November 5th.”

South Portland voters will have the opportunity to vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance at the November 5 election.