Portland Pipe Line Corp. said Saturday it was disappointed by a federal judge’s decision that South Portland’s Clear Skies ordinance did not violate the U.S. Constitution, and may appeal the ruling. Friday’s decision is the latest chapter in a 4-year-long legal battle over the pipeline.

“We are disappointed with the decision. We are closely studying the ruling and considering all available options, including appeal,” Jim Merrill of The Bernstein Shur Group, which is representing Portland Pipe Line Corp, said in an email.

The decision was released Friday after a four-day trial in June in U.S. District Court in Portland. If it’s appealed, the case would go to the 1st U.S. Circuit Appeals Court in Boston.

The 2014 ordinance effectively blocked the company from reversing the flow of its 236-mile underground pipeline that has carried foreign crude from harbor terminals in South Portland to refineries in Montreal since World War II.

The banning of bulk loading of crude oil onto tankers was in response to controversial “tar sands” oil that was being produced in western Canada.

Environmental groups that supported the Clear Skies ordinance say tar sands oil is more hazardous to load onto ships, transport through pipelines and clean up if spilled. Oil industry representatives dispute those claims, saying the ordinance is unjustified and jeopardizes business development, jobs and future crude oil shipping.

South Portland Mayor Linda Cohen released a statement Friday praising the decision by U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr., which preserves the land that oil tanks in the city are located on for future development.

“Faced with the prospect of hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil being loaded onto marine tank vessels in the city and threatening the health of the residents and preventing redevelopment of the waterfront, the City Council prohibited this new activity,” Cohen said. “We are pleased that the court upheld the ordinance.”

Attorneys for Portland Pipe Line had argued that the ordinance violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which says that Congress has the sole power to regulate foreign and interstate trade.

Jonathan Ettinger, an attorney for South Portland, said in a written statement that the federal court concluded, after a “painstakingly thorough review of the evidence,” that the Cleark Skies ordinance passed muster.

“The court appropriately recognized that this case was about protecting the health, safety and welfare of the residents of South Portland and not about whether the oil came from Alberta or Augusta,” Ettinger said.

 

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