South Portland Passes Tar Sands Ordinance on Final Vote



Mary-Jane Ferrier, Protect South Portland, 207-799-4844

Taryn Hallweaver, Environment Maine, 207-712-6351

Judy Berk, Natural Resources Council of Maine, 207-462-2192

South Portland Passes Tar Sands Ordinance on Final Vote

Ordinance Prohibits Terminal to Load Tar Sands, Crude onto Tankers 

South Portland—In an historic vote, the South Portland City Council tonight voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance to protect the city from a tar sands crude oil terminal. The city developed the ordinance after Protect South Portland’s neighbor-to-neighbor campaign educated and mobilized the community against tar sands over the last year and a half. More than 325 supporters wearing sky-blue packed the Community Center, with just a handful of opponents in attendance. 

“We may be a small city, but, boy, we’ve done a big thing tonight! The Clear Skies Ordinance protects our air, our coast, and our community,” said Mary-Jane Ferrier, spokesperson for Protect South Portland. “We are absolutely thrilled, relieved, and exhausted. Of course, we know it may not be over yet, and we’re committed to defend this victory from oil industry attacks.” 

“When I started Protect South Portland a year and a half ago, I honestly did not know what lay ahead. I just knew I had to step up and with others find a way to save our city from the threat of tar sands. Now it’s happened, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Rachel Mason Burger, founder of Protect South Portland. “Mayor Jalbert and the City Council deserve a huge thank you for all they’ve done to keep South Portland residents healthy and safe.” 

The Clear Skies Ordinance prohibits the bulk loading of tar sands onto tankers on the waterfront and forbids the construction of infrastructure for that purpose. Bulk loading of tar sands would increase air pollution, including volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants, on the waterfront and surrounding the tanks next to schools and throughout the community. Two 70-foot tall combustion smokestacks on the pier next to Bug Light, such as those previously permitted by the city and state for bulk loading of tar sands, would harm scenic views and property values. 

“What’s really amazing about this whole process is how much it has brought the community together,” said Crystal Goodrich, a volunteer with Protect South Portland. “So many people have come together to fight for the future of our city. Hundreds of people have volunteered countless hours, talking to neighbors, collecting petitions, making phone calls, and attending meeting after meeting. We also had the assistance of Maine environmental groups, and their expertise was invaluable. We couldn’t have done this without them.” 

South Portland has been at the center of a battle over tar sands for more than a year, in reaction to the possibility of tar sands coming to the port city from Canada, as has been discussed by the oil industry. South Portland is the only U.S. city on the east coast with a deep-water port and that is connected to a crude oil pipeline. The American Petroleum Institute and its allies spent $750,000 last fall to narrowly defeat a citizen’s initiative the block the tar sands terminal by attacking it as overly broad. 

“Tonight citizens working to protect their community prevailed over Big Oil. It is a true David versus Goliath victory,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “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. We’re hopeful that South Portland’s action will empower other communities threatened by new tar sands infrastructure to protect themselves.” 

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

“Tonight’s victory shows that no one is above the democratic process, and when out-of-state oil interests try to throw their weight around to pollute a Maine town, we know how to say ‘no.’” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “As South Portland goes, so goes the nation. Communities everywhere are waking up to the fact that tar sands are a dirty, toxic energy source.” 

The ordinance was developed by a Draft Ordinance Committee, comprised of three volunteer experts on land use, law, science, and environmental management, as well as a moderator, who met 20 times over several months in a highly transparent process to gather information, hear from the public and stakeholders, and develop a policy that addressed concerns about tar sands without adversely affecting South Portland’s existing refined oil operations.