Two bills that would affect the operation and potential closure of petroleum terminals and storage facilities in Maine won strong endorsements Wednesday from the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

The committee voted 9-1 to recommend passage of L.D. 1915, which would direct the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to study and recommend the best ways to measure, estimate, and control odors and other air emissions from oil storage tanks, loading racks and vessel off-loading facilities.

The committee also voted 9-1 to recommend passage of L.D. 2033, which would ensure the environmentally safe cleanup and removal of the 10 petroleum terminals and their tank farms in Maine, from South Portland to Searsport, if any of them ever closes. And it would require the owners to cover the cost.

Both bills are of great interest in South Portland, where concerns about oil terminals and tank farms have mounted in recent years. Most recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a federal lawsuit and consent decree leveling penalties against Global Partners LP for Clean Air Act violations at its tank farm on the Fore River.

“No one should have to live their life wondering if the air they breathe could be damaging to them or their family,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, a sponsor of L.D. 1915. “I’m glad the committee recognized how urgent this situation is.”

Rep. Chris Johansen, R-Monticello, provided the single vote against each bill, though he wasn’t in the room when the committee voted, legislative staff members said. Three committee members were absent Wednesday.

The Maine DEP backed both bills, which now face votes in the House and Senate in the coming weeks.

If Millett’s bill is approved, the Maine DEP would be poised to challenge widely disputed federal methods of monitoring and controlling petroleum tank emissions that include pollution estimates that even EPA officials have questioned. The committee heard overwhelming support for the bill last month, when residents and city officials testified about foul tank odors and other emissions and the potential danger to public health.

“Very rarely does a committee vote against a study of health impacts when there is very good reason for it,” said Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, a committee chairman.

L.D. 2033, An Act to Ensure Proper Closure of Oil Terminal Facilities, would establish laws governing the potential closure of petroleum terminals as Maine moves to reduce the use of fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases.

“An oil terminal facility can stand vacant and unused forever,” said Rep. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, the measure’s sponsor. “This bill will help make our environment clean and safe. It also protects the fiscal well-being of our state, our municipalities and our residents.”

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, Carney said.

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 and most of the company’s 23 multimillion-gallon storage tanks in South Portland stand empty. The company is challenging the ordinance in federal court and opposes L.D. 2033, which originally called for companies to file a closure plan when all or part of a facility has not been used for more than 10 years. That trigger has been dropped from the proposed bill.

Under current state law, if a company closes a petroleum terminal, it must clean tanks, pipes and other equipment. Under the proposed legislation, as a condition of licensing, companies would have to submit a plan to the Maine DEP showing how they would remove all tanks, pipes, equipment and contaminated soil if a facility closed and prove they would be able to pay for the closure.

“These sites have the potential to be used for housing, working waterfront, commercial development or other types of energy production,” rather than sit abandoned with tanks out of use and no longer contributing to the economy, Carney said.

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