Tar Sands Ordinance Passes on Initial Vote

Protect South Portland


For Immediate Release: July 9, 2014

Contact: Mary-Jane Ferrier, Protect South Portland, [email protected], 207-799-4844

Taryn Hallweaver, Environment Maine, [email protected], 207-712-6351 

Tar Sands Ordinance Passes on Initial Vote

South Portland—The South Portland City Council voted 6-1 tonight to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance, a new, narrow ordinance that will protect the city from tar sands. A huge crowd of 355 people, wearing sky-blue tee shirts, turned out in support of the ordinance, and those from South Portland speaking in support of the ordinance outnumbered opponents 9-1.

“We may be a really small city, but, boy, we’ve done a big thing tonight!” said Mary-Jane Ferrier, spokesperson for Protect South Portland. “Let’s keep the faith for when the Council casts its final vote.”

The new, focused ordinance will prohibit the bulk loading of crude oil, including tar sands, onto tankers, as well as new related infrastructure in the city—an activity never before undertaken in the city. The ordinance in no way affects gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, or any other refined petroleum product. 

“I am so proud to live in a city where democracy is truly alive,” said Meg Braley of South Portland. “Tonight, the people of South Portland prevailed over one of the most powerful industries in the world to protect our health and community. It’s not over yet, but we’re thrilled about tonight’s victory.” 

The bulk loading of tar sands onto tankers would increase air pollution in the city – both at Pier 2 next to Bug Light and at the various oil storage tank facilities, including those adjacent to or near elementary schools, the high school and athletic fields, and residences. 

“For the last nine months, and culminating tonight, the city has led a deliberative, transparent, and exhaustive process to develop and consider this new ordinance, and we are deeply grateful to Mayor Jalbert and the Council for their leadership, integrity, and courageous votes,” said Eben Rose of South Portland.

Federal law requires pollution-control technology, such as the 70-foot vapor combustion units (smokestacks) permitted by the city and state in 2009 for Portland Pipe Line Corp.’s previous tar sands project, to limit air emissions from operations that bulk load crude oil onto marine vessels. But the VCUs would capture just a portion of the benzene, a known human carcinogen, and other toxic pollutants emitted during the loading process.

A small committee of land-use experts, appointed by the City Council, developed the ordinance over the last six months. They were painstaking in their outreach to all stakeholders, including the oil industry, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents, meeting 20 times for more than 60 hours before finalizing the new ordinance. The committee was given a standing ovation tonight.

“Tonight we saw the tremendous power of people coming together against incredible odds to protect their community,” said Environment Maine Campaigns Director Taryn Hallweaver. “We are so proud to have worked side-by-side with hundreds of South Portland residents over the last year and a half. We applaud Mayor Jalbert and the Council for their courageous leadership.” 

Last week, Environment Maine released a new report, Inside the Big Oil Playbook: Strategies and Tactics Used in the Industry’s Battle to Ship Tar Sands Oil Out of Casco Bay, which analyzed how the oil industry spent $750,000 last fall to narrowly defeat the Waterfront Protection Ordinance. The report found that the industry used four “tried-and-true” strategies in South Portland last fall—spend big, downplay the role of out-of-state Big Oil, deny any plans to bring tar sands to Maine, and manufacture and play up economic concerns—and these same strategies are surfacing once again in these final days before the Council’s votes on the new ordinance. 

“Tonight’s decision pitted a thoughtful, commonsense proposal to protect the health of South Portland citizens and their community versus a baseless set of claims by out-of-state oil interests,” said Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “We congratulate the City Council for the latest example of responsible leadership on behalf of residents.”

The Planning Board will consider the ordinance next Tuesday, and then the Council is slated to take final action on the ordinance on July 21.



Protect South Portland

Keeping South Portland, Maine Tar Sands Free


Website: www.protectsouthportland.org 

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Mail: PO BOX 2154, South Portland, ME, 04116-2154