SOUTH PORTLAND — The battle over blocking Canadian tar sands oil from flowing through a pipeline to the city’s working waterfront continues to influence local politics as voters on Tuesday consider candidates in two contested City Council races.

District 1 incumbent Michael Pock – the only councilor who voted against the city’s ban on exporting crude oil – is being challenged by Claude Morgan – a former councilor and mayor who supported the ban and believes the city should take additional steps to redevelop its waterfront.

In District 5, where Mayor Jerry Jalbert isn’t seeking re-election, both Brad Fox, who is a political newcomer, and Alan Livingston, a former councilor, say they supported the waterfront zoning changes in July that blocked crude oil exports.

Protect South Portland, a grassroots community group that promoted the ban known as the “Clear Skies Ordinance,” has endorsed and is campaigning for Morgan, Fox and incumbent District 2 Councilor Patti Smith, who’s running unopposed.

“The ordinance that was passed can be amended,” said Mary-Jane Ferrier, the group’s spokeswoman. “We’d like to be sure that councilors who are elected will protect the ordinance.”

Ferrier said the group expects the council to defend the ordinance against potential lawsuits, including one threatened by the ban’s opponents. It also wants the council to establish an air emissions monitoring program for all fuel terminals and a more rigorous project review process to assess potential air quality impacts of proposed industrial and marine uses.

While both Fox and Livingston supported the crude-export ban, Protect South Portland endorsed Fox over Livingston because members felt Livingston missed too many meetings when he was on the council, Ferrier said.

“That gives us pause as far as commitment and vigilance in working for constituents,” Ferrier said.

Livingston said he missed some meetings during his third year on the council for personal reasons, which led him to take a break from public office until he could dedicate the time necessary.

Along with winning endorsements from Protect South Portland, Morgan and Fox also have received more campaign contributions than is usual in city’s elections.

According to campaign finance reports filed Friday with the city clerk, Morgan has received $1,475 in campaign contributions from individuals, ranging from $25 from Councilor Tom Blake, a major tar sands opponent; to $400 from Morgan’s sister, Susan Price of Fort Worth, Texas.

Fox has received $750 in contributions from individuals, including $300 from Mind’s Eye Productions owner William Dufris of South Portland.

Pock and Livingston reported receiving $200 and $100 in individual contributions, respectively.

Morgan and Fox said that most of their contributions came from people who supported the crude export ban. All four council candidates said – and their finance reports show – that they received no contributions from special interest groups.

While all of the candidates talked about controlling taxes, supporting business and promoting jobs, the crude export ban remains a top campaign concern.

The council voted 6-1 in July to approve zoning changes to prevent the bulk loading of crude oil, including Canadian tar sands oil, onto marine tank vessels, and to block construction or expansion of terminals and other facilities for that purpose.

While there was no active proposal to export tar sands oil through Maine, environmentalists feared that oil companies would try to reverse the 236-mile Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, which currently transports crude oil to Canada after it is shipped to South Portland from foreign ports. The ordinance changes were developed by a council-appointed committee after a narrow margin of city voters rejected the much broader Waterfront Protection Ordinance in a referendum last November.

Environmentalists wanted to block the export of Canadian tar sands oil because they believe it contributes to global climate change, is more difficult to clean up if a spill occurs, and could increase local air pollution. Oil industry representatives dispute those claims, saying that any restrictions are unjustified and would constrain business development, jeopardize jobs and block future U.S. crude exports. It’s currently illegal to export U.S. crude, with some exceptions.

Councilor Pock remains angry about the passage of the crude export ban. He said he’s upset that the council worked to undo the results of the 2013 referendum and passed a ban that he views as a job killer.

“I’d like to get rid of it,” Pock said. “I’m the only guy who voted against it. Nobody wants tar sands in the city, but there’s got to be a better way to do it. I’m for keeping jobs.”

Pock said the council will face greater scrutiny if the ban’s opponents file a lawsuit against the city. “The silent majority lost and the silent majority won’t be silent anymore,” he said.

Morgan, Pock’s challenger in District 1, disagrees. Morgan said he would strongly defend the ban against lawsuits and believes the council should move forward to make plans for a future when there are no fuel “tank farms” in the city.

“Sometimes you have to pay the freight for doing the right thing,” Morgan said. “Just because somebody has deep pockets, we can’t let them tie us up and hold us for ransom. Some of our challenges are our biggest opportunities.”

Morgan said the decisions that the council makes in the next few years “are going to shape the landscape of the city for the next 50 years.” He said the council should develop a long-term plan for mixed-use redevelopment of the city’s industrial waterfront that anticipates “a day when the tap will turn off and the oil will dry up.”

In District 5, Fox said he “would be a strong advocate to protect and defend (the crude export ban) if the oil companies go after it. I hope they don’t. I’m against taking tar sands out of the ground because it’s the dirtiest form of oil.”

Livingston said he opposed the waterfront referendum when he was a councilor because it was too far reaching, but he supported the moratorium on related waterfront development and the formation of the committee that developed the crude export ban. He said it would be unfortunate if the city is forced to defend the ban in court and that it’s too early to plan for the closing of existing fuel storage facilities.

“We need to be fair to the businesses that are there,” Livingston said.


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