Opponents of a newly approved ban on tar-sands oil in South Portland say they are evaluating what steps are available to overturn the ordinance, which was approved by the City Council in a 6-1 vote on Monday night.

Approval of the tar-sands ban was not unexpected, with councilors voting identically (6-1, with Councilor Michael Pock opposed) to their July 9 vote on a first reading of the ordinance.

Still, as supporters of the measure celebrate, the South Portland Working Waterfront Coalition said in a press release that it would “evaluate all political and legal means available to us to overturn this ordinance.”

The press added, “The fight is not over.”

In addition, Jim Merrill, spokesman for the Portland Pipe Line Corp., said, “As we evaluate several options concerning this job-killing ordinance, we will continue our daily focus on outstanding, safe and environmentally responsible service, which has defined our company as an award-winning and excellent corporate citizen in South Portland and the region for over 73 years.”

A Draft Ordinance Committee appointed by the City Council earlier this year spent months and nearly 100 hours creating the new ordinance, which actually never mentions the term “tar sands” specifically, but which does ban the bulk loading of crude oil products onto marine tank vessels in the city, along with any related infrastructure.

Dubbed the “clear skies ordinance” by supporters, the new rules are specifically linked to the city’s home rule authority to protect the health and welfare of residents, as well as various goals set out in South Portland’s comprehensive plan regarding land use, particularly along the waterfront.

While person after person, several with young children in tow, stepped up to the podium in support of the tar-sands ban, those representing the local oil industry called the ordinance flawed, arguing it would have a serious impact on the ability of the oil terminals to respond to market demand.

Tom Hardison, vice president of the Portland Pipe Line Corp., said his company “supports good jobs, economic growth and operates with the highest integrity.”

In addressing the council, Hardison said he’s concerned about the company’s ability to meet energy demands with the tar-sands ban in place and said there is no doubt the city’s oil industry would be harmed by the new ordinance.

He also argued that the claims about tar sands and its negative impact on the environment and human health are “just not true. I urge you to take emotion off the table and produce a document that is based on science and fact.”

Hardison said that although there are no planned or “imminent” pipeline reversal projects, the ban on tar sands in South Portland would still have a “negative impact” and “tie the hands” of the oil industry, “making it incapable of responding to industry needs.”

And Matt Manahan, an attorney with Pierce Atwood, who was representing Portland Pipe Line Corp., said the “one-sided process” that produced a “pre-ordained result ignores science, law and logic.”

He added, “This ordinance makes no sense. The council is sacrificing (our) businesses for short-term political gain.”

Dick Ingalls, a resident of South Portland, who has previously served on the Portland Harbor Commission, said, “I beg you to vote against this ordinance and go back to the drawing board. This ordinance is very flawed and serves the waterfront poorly.”

Taking his turn to speak Monday, Burt Russell of Sprague Energy said his company is an “active member of the community, and we pride ourselves on providing the products the people here demand daily.”

He argued that the process leading up to the tar-sands ban was “not a fact-based, open dialogue,” adding it was “not collaborative.”

And resident Kevin Rodriguez said that fossil fuels are necessary “unless everyone is ready to drop their keys on the gym floor and not heat their homes.”

He also argued that it would be better to get oil products from Canada, which is a close ally, rather than from countries in the Middle East or Africa.

But South Portland’s Eva Getts commended the council for supporting the tar-sands ban and echoed others in saying, “You are making history. Because of your foresight and bravery South Portland is known as the little city that could. This is a step into the future.”

And Roberta Zuckerman said the process of getting the tar sands ban approved was “very democratic, with people able to step up and speak about what concerns them.”

When it came time for the council vote on the ban, the only surprise was when Pock requested an amendment to the new rules that would only prevent the bulk loading of “non-American crude products.”

While Councilor Maxine Beecher seconded the amendment, it was quickly defeated.

In defending the tar sands ban Mayor Gerard Jalbert called the new rules “a compromise that is narrow, specific and within the law.” And Councilor Tom Blake pleaded with opponents of the ban “not to fight this ordinance.”

Following the meeting, Mary-Jane Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Protect South Portland, which worked hard to get the tar-sands ban passed said, “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.”

She added, “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.”

Emily Figdor, director of Environment Maine, also celebrated the victory, calling passage of the tar-sands ban, “a true David versus Goliath victory.”

She added, “The clear skies ordinance will protect air quality and prevent a beautiful stretch of our coast from being 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.”

And the Natural Resources Council of Maine said, “All of us face the threat of climate change worsened by tar sands. South Portland has faced down the oil industry to prevent toxic air pollution and other impacts from a facility to load tar sands and other crude onto tankers.”

But Jamie Py, spokesman for the Working Waterfront Coalition, said in a press release that “by passing the so-called clear skies ordinance and brazenly overturning the will of local voters, the South Portland City Council committed this community to continued division and discord.”

He added, “The ordinance sends a chilling message to businesses of all kinds. It says that this City Council will kowtow to a small group of activists and arbitrarily ban a legitimate business operation.”

Merrill, with Portland Pipe Line, agreed and said, “We are disappointed in (the) ordinance vote, but not surprised. The biased process that led to its predetermined passage has been slanted against Portland Pipe Line Corp. and the entire working waterfront since Day One.”

“Recent comments by South Portland city councilors make it abundantly clear that they have no interest in allowing Portland Pipe Line Corp. and other terminals in the harbor to adapt to and meet the needs of a dynamic industry and the energy needs of the region and North America,” Merrill added.

After months of meetings and debate, the South Portland City Council voted Monday night, 6-1, to approve the Clear Skies Ordinance, banning the future shipping of tar-sands oil from the city’s waterfront facilities. Showing its support of the ordinance, a blue-clad crowd jumped to its feet to applaud the City Council after Mayor Gerard Jalbert announced the voting tally.


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