June 13, 2013

Oil pipeline opponents rally in S. Portland

BY MATT BYRNE Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Jeff Thaler, visiting professor of environmental law at the Maine Law School and the University of Maine, said there is a body of case law in which the state's Law Court has upheld cases of ballot initiatives used to target specific developments. Thaler, who is not connected to the project and spoke without specific knowledge of the case, predicted that the Portland Pipe Line Corp. soon will begin mounting a public information campaign to sway opinion. At least one resident has said that an unidentified group already has begun polling on the issue, the Portland Press Herald reported in April.

"The developer is going to have to defeat the initiative, or else they're going to have to figure out a way around what the initiative is doing, or figure out a way not to go through South Portland," he said.

"It certainly has some precedent here in Maine and can be very frustrating for a developer who spends a lot of time and money only to have the rules change before the end of the game."

At the rally, air pollution and the risk of a spill of the thick tar sands crude were among the loudest concerns.

When the Portland Pipe Line Corp. proposed reversing the flow in 2008, the project included installing two 70-foot smoke stacks. While the project was taken off the table in 2010, opponents on Thursday still pointed to the stacks as potential sources of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, not to mention their presence as unsightly additions to the view from nearby Bug Light Park.

The stacks would be needed to burn off chemical gases used to prevent explosions or fire in the loading of oil products into tanks.

Three similar stacks now stand in South Portland to accommodate the loading of gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel. Also, the relative amount of new emissions from the two towering structures would have been low compared to other pollutant sources in the area.

The Portland Pipe Line Corp. already is permitted to expel 220 tons of volatile organic compounds, which are believed to cause eye, nose, and throat irritations and are suspected of causing cancer in some people. Their 2008 permit for the project that was never completed, meanwhile, allowed them to add 39 more tons, less than 20 percent of the overall permitted amount. By comparison, the Sappi paper mill in Westbrook may legally emit 321 tons of volatile organic compounds, while Bath Iron Works is allowed to expel 102 tons of the substances.

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