SOUTH PORTLAND — Residents expressed anger and called for action Tuesday night when the City Council took public comment on a federal air pollution lawsuit filed against a petroleum storage facility on the Fore River.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency surprised city officials last week when it filed a lawsuit and consent decree charging Global Partners LP with violating the Clean Air Act for several years at its tank farm off Lincoln Street.

Global officials at Tuesday’s meeting disputed the EPA’s findings, and attorneys working for the city said the Maine Department of Environmental Protection also disputes the federal agency’s newer methodology.

Nathan Oliver was among more than 20 residents who addressed the council, raising concerns about the odors and health impacts of hazardous volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, venting from Global’s massive tanks near the Pleasantdale neighborhood.

“It’s not OK,” said Oliver, who lives near the facility on Atlantic Avenue. “It can’t be accepted. Global is not a good neighbor … if they’ve been poisoning us for this long.”

The consent decree outlines the terms of a proposed settlement that would force Global to pay $190,000 in penalties and reduce emissions at the facility at the end of Clark Road, which runs through Forest City Cemetery.


Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Global stores asphalt and No. 6 heavy fuel oil in huge heated tanks that have the potential to emit more than 50 tons of VOCs into the air each year, the complaint says. That’s more than double the 21.9 tons per year allowed under an emissions license issued by the Maine DEP in 2013.

Residents called the proposed penalties “disappointing” and “horrendous” and questioned why federal and state environmental officials allowed Global to violate its emissions license for years without notifying city officials and people who live nearby.

Residents urged the council to be vigilant and uncompromising in seeking a fair settlement and holding Global accountable. They also suggested installing systems to control and monitor emissions from all bulk oil storage tanks in the city, as well as taking steps locally to improve the notification process for environmental violations.

Councilors shared similar concerns, especially about the potential threat to schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and other public spaces near oil storage tanks. They also questioned why neither EPA nor DEP notified the city, why the two agencies apparently disagree about Global’s emissions, and whether Global knowingly violated emissions standards.

“I’m furious about this,” said Councilor Susan Henderson. “It is criminal in my book.”

The council scheduled another workshop in two weeks to review its response to the consent decree, which is subject to court approval and a 30-day public comment period that started Monday. The council also planned an executive session next week to consider other legal actions the city might take.


VOCs include a variety of chemicals that can produce adverse health effects such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, the EPA said.

VOCs also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly and anyone with lung diseases such as asthma. Ground-level ozone also can harm sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

City officials invited representatives of the EPA, DEP and Global to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but only Global accepted.

“We strongly disagree with EPA” but decided to settle, said Tom Keefe, Global’s vice president of environmental health and safety.

EPA and DEP officials declined to attend Tuesday’s meeting because the lawsuit and consent decree have already been filed and registered in U.S. District Court in Portland.

However, the DEP sent a statement saying Global’s submitted data showed that its VOC emissions were 19.67 tons in 2016 and 18.05 tons in 2017.


The city has hired Paul Driscoll and Adrian Kendall, lawyers with Norman Hanson Detroy of Portland, to help decipher the complex lawsuit and shepherd the city’s response to the consent decree.

Kendall said he spoke with DEP officials, who said they also disagree with EPA because the federal agency used a newer methodology to assess emissions from the Global facility.

While the lawsuit indicates Global is liable for potential Clean Air Act violations dating to 2004, the complaint says the EPA issued violation notices in 2014 and 2015.

Continuing high levels of volatile organic compounds were flagged again in 2016, when Global sought a “minor revision” to its emissions license from the Maine DEP. Global’s annual reported VOC emissions first spiked in 2012, according to a fever graph in a 2016 EPA report.

Under the proposed settlement, the company must take steps to reduce emissions, pay a $40,000 fine and invest at least $150,000 in a program to replace or upgrade wood stoves in Cumberland County. The program would provide vouchers to help people replace or retrofit older wood-burning stoves with cleaner-burning, more efficient heating equipment.

Mayor Claude Morgan said getting input from the city might have helped the EPA negotiate a settlement proposal that would be more relevant to South Portland. He noted that city officials had applied for but never received a highly competitive EPA grant in 2016 that would have established a citywide air quality monitoring program as part of its municipal climate action plan.


Global is one of six companies that operate bulk petroleum storage facilities in South Portland. The others are Citgo, Gulf, Irving, Sprague and the Portland Pipe Line Corp. In a 2016 PowerPoint presentation to city officials, EPA staffers noted that the agency had inspected those facilities eight times in the previous five years and issued four violation notices to two facilities.

However, the presentation didn’t name the facilities or provide any information about the violations. Besides Global, Gulf was the only facility to show an overall increase in VOC emissions in the presentation.

Global operates 10 of the more than 100 large petroleum storage tanks in South Portland, many of which serve seven fuel terminals on the city’s waterfront. Global receives asphalt and heavy oil by barge or truck and stores the products until they are loaded into tank trucks or marine vessels for distribution, according to the EPA’s complaint.

Global owned the facility before 2002 and is liable to pay civil penalties ranging from $32,500 per day for each violation after March 15, 2004, to $97,229 per day for each violation after Nov. 2, 2015, according to the EPA’s complaint.

Under the proposed settlement with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice, Global must apply for a revised license from the Maine DEP and take steps to reduce VOC emissions at the facility.

The revised license would limit the amount of petroleum products that could pass through the facility each year to 75 million gallons of asphalt and 50 million gallons No. 6 heavy oil on a rolling 12-month basis, according to the consent decree.

Global also must install mist eliminator systems on four heated tanks to address local air impacts and implement a program of at least 120 “non-heating days,” when one of the tanks isn’t heated for 24 hours. The tanks are heated to keep the petroleum products liquid.

An EPA spokesman said last week that “Global has already implemented at least part of the conditions required under the consent decree to reduce VOC emissions.”

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