A legislative committee is considering a bill to ensure the environmentally safe and “proper closure” of 10 petroleum terminals and their tank farms from South Portland to Searsport.

It’s the second bill to come before the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee this session that’s related to the environmental and public health impacts of fuel terminals and their storage facilities.

Sponsored by Rep. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, L.D. 2033 would establish laws governing the potential shutdown of petroleum terminals as Maine moves to reduce the use of fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases.

Carney was one of at least 21 people who testified in favor of An Act to Ensure Proper Closure of Oil Terminal Facilities when the committee held a hearing Jan. 31. At least three people testified against the measure, according to committee records.

“As Maine responds to climate change and promotes renewable energy, our reliance on petroleum fuel will decrease and its infrastructure will go unused,” Carney said. “We need to address the financial and environmental risks our state, cities and towns, and people face when oil terminal facilities close.”

Currently, Carney said, petroleum terminal owners are required to show only the ability to cover the cost of cleaning tanks and equipment when facilities close. Carney’s bill would force the owners to show they also could pay for the removal of storage tanks and equipment and the remediation of any contamination on the site. To ensure estimated costs are accurate, the owners would have to file plans with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which supports the legislation.

The bill also would force owners to complete closures when all or part of a facility has not been used for more than 10 years. This would ensure that unused facilities are closed in a timely manner, while the owners still have financial resources to do the work, Carney said.

“Facility closure is not even mentioned in our statutes,” Carney testified. “The current requirements … are limited to cleaning. An oil terminal facility can stand vacant and unused forever. That is a problem for all of us – for the state, for municipalities and for taxpayers. Who will pay for removing the tanks and cleaning contaminated soil if a facility is abandoned or an owner lacks financial resources?”

Carney said there are 10 oil terminals in Maine where ships transfer petroleum products into massive storage tanks: six in South Portland, one in Bucksport, one in Hampden and two in Searsport.

“Use of these facilities is already declining,” Carney said. “Hampden had a second facility, which closed in 1996. A decade later, a significant petroleum leak was discovered, which led to millions of dollars in environmental damage and a cleanup that is ongoing today.”

Carney referred to the Portland Pipe Line Corp. terminals in South Portland, “where 91 percent of the tanks are permanently out of service.” The company has 23 tanks scattered across the city, each of which can hold 6 million to 11 million gallons of crude.

Carney’s town, Cape Elizabeth, is next to South Portland, where she’s seeking support in the Senate District 29 race this year and where concerns about oil terminals and tank farms have mounted in recent years.

In 2014, the South Portland City Council passed the Clear Skies Ordinance to effectively block the Portland Pipe Line Corp. from reversing the flow of its pipeline, which for decades pumped crude oil from the city’s waterfront terminals on Portland Harbor to refineries in Montreal. The pipeline is now largely shut down because Canada has no call for foreign crude. The company is challenging the ordinance in federal court.

Tom Hardison, president of the international pipeline company, testified against the bill, along with a lawyer for the company and a representative of the Maine Energy Marketers Association.

“This bill (is) a continued effort by some to eliminate the petroleum energy infrastructure of Maine that provides for the essential energy needs of the citizens of Maine and northern New England,” Hardison said. “No one disagrees that once an oil terminal is closed that it should be done responsibly and in an environmentally sound manner, but the proposed bill oversteps that premise and attempts to prematurely shut down portions of the terminals that may still provide for our energy needs into the future.”

Hardison said the petroleum trade “is a very cyclical business and these are multimillion-dollar facilities, and the forced closure of these facilities will have economic consequences in commerce, energy, jobs and taxes to the entire state of Maine.”

The legislative committee also is considering L.D. 1915, which would direct the DEP to find the best ways to measure, estimate and control odors and other air emissions from oil storage tanks, loading racks and vessel off-loading facilities.

That bill is sponsored by state Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, who currently holds the District 29 seat representing South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough. Millett introduced the bill after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a federal lawsuit last March and imposed penalties on Global Partners LP for alleged emissions violations of the Clean Air Act at its petroleum terminal and tank farm on the Fore River in South Portland.

Both tank farm-related bills were scheduled for a committee work session Friday that was canceled because of a winter storm. The work session is expected to be rescheduled.

Carney said her bill would require owners of shuttered petroleum terminals to clean and remove or cap storage tanks, pipes, related equipment and contaminated soil so that sites may be redeveloped for commercial and possibly even residential purposes.

South Portland Mayor Kate Lewis testified that the bill “would allow us, as residents of South Portland and citizens of Maine, to look to the future knowing that we have financially fair and environmentally responsible plans to protect and reclaim our valuable waterfront for future generations.”


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