Lawmakers gave final approval Friday to legislation that would require state environmental regulators to notify local officials about air quality violations in their municipalities.

The bill passed the Senate and was sent to Gov. Janet Mills for her consideration on the same day that South Portland officials announced additional violations from oil tank farms that had not previously been disclosed to the city.

Some of those alleged violations – at Sprague Operating Resources – date back to 2011 and involve emissions that exceeded the facility’s license as well as unlicensed operational changes at the facility.

South Portland officials have been pushing to tighten up the state’s notification requirements ever since they were caught off guard by years of violations at a local petroleum storage facility.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knew since 2014 that Global Partners LP, which owns the Fore River facility, had been exceeding its emissions limits under the Clean Air Act for years. But South Portland officials were surprised to learn about the violations in March.

The bill by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, requires that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection notify municipalities whenever the agency issues an air quality “notice of violation” or learns about a “notice of violation” from the EPA.


“This is a transparency issue,” said Millett, who introduced the bill after reading about the issue in the Press Herald this spring. “They should know.”

The bill, L.D. 1706, passed the Senate unanimously Friday and previously passed the House. Gov. Janet Mills is expected to sign the measure, which was supported by the Maine DEP.

Also Friday, South Portland officials announced details of additional alleged violations at local tank farms.

The EPA recently informed the city that the agency had issued a notice of violation to Sprague Operating Resources in April 2014 based on inspections dating to 2011. The EPA said Sprague was likely to exceed its emissions limits, had more oil than allowed and had other emissions not covered by the company’s license.

The EPA also issued another notice of violation in December 2014 alleging that Sprague had made physical and operational changes at the facility without properly amending its license. The Maine DEP said Sprague subsequently amended its license in 2015 and the department saw no existing violations.

The city also disclosed that the DEP had issued a notice of violation to Global Partners in April of this year for using No. 6 fuel oil that exceeded the maximum sulfur content allowed under state law. The company and DEP officials are still working to resolve the alleged violation, according to the city.


“Although there are no actions for the city to take at this time regarding these two matters, we did want to be sure that our citizens were made aware of them,” South Portland Mayor Claude Morgan said in a statement Friday. “The city continues to monitor these situations while also working with DEP on an air quality testing program to assess South Portland’s air quality.”

In the earlier lawsuit and consent agreement with Global Partners, the EPA contends the company for years emitted more than double the 21.9 tons of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, allowed under their license for its tank farm off of Lincoln Street.

Global Partners officials have disputed the conclusions by the EPA but ultimately decided to settle the case.

News of the old violations brought to the forefront the long-standing concerns in South Portland over community health, odor, noise, traffic and other concerns about the massive petroleum storage tanks along the city’s waterfront. The incidents also revealed a rift between the Maine DEP and the EPA because the two agencies had different views on some of the alleged violations.

Millett said she was “astounded” that South Portland wasn’t notified for years, and it wasn’t made public until a settlement was finalized between the EPA and Global Partners.

“If the municipality knows, they can inform residents and if there’s a concern run it up the chain all the way to our congressional delegation,” Millett said.

Millett on Friday said the settlement may have tilted more in the neighborhood’s favor if the issue had been made public prior to the court settlement. Among the terms of the settlement are a $40,000 fine and investing in a $150,000 program to replace or upgrade wood stoves in Cumberland County.


Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story