Maine has taken an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to the challenges of climate change. Our youth are powerful advocates for recognizing that climate change is an emergency. Renewable-energy businesses lead Maine in transitioning our homes and businesses away from fossil fuel dependency. In the State House, the Legislature and Gov. Mills have set goals for Maine’s dramatic reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions and corresponding increase in renewable-energy use.

As Maine responds to climate change and promotes renewable energy, our reliance on petroleum products will decrease, and the infrastructure will go unused. We need to address the environmental and financial risks that our state, communities and people face as the large oil terminal facilities that dominate parts of our coast close.

Eleven oil terminal facilities are located in Maine: two in Searsport, one in Bucksport, one in Bangor, one in Yarmouth and six in South Portland. Use of these facilities is already declining. Hampden used to have a facility. It 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. In South Portland, some facilities have a significant number of tanks out of service. As facilities shut down, the question arises: What is to become of the abandoned oil tanks, and whose responsibility is it to take care of the sites once they close?

Right now, when a site closes, facility owners are required only to clean out tanks. The empty tanks can remain in place forever. Contaminated soil can remain in place, too. This leaves our state, our cities and towns and Maine taxpayers wondering whether these sites will ever be put back to use, and who will foot the bill. Without a proper framework of accountability for closure and remediation, we are effectively denying economic growth and other opportunities to Maine communities affected by oil terminal facility closures. These sites have the potential to be used for housing, working waterfront, commercial development and clean-energy production, but instead, they risk being relegated to empty lots where giant oil tanks sit abandoned, out of use and no longer contributing to Maine’s economy.

My bill, L.D. 2033, An Act to Ensure Proper Closure of Oil Terminal Facilities, establishes a statutory framework for closure so that, as oil facilities reach the end of their usefulness, those sites can be repurposed. The bill sets two important policies. First, the owners of oil terminal facilities will be required to remove tanks and clean up contaminated soil when the facilities are no longer used. Sites will be cleaned up to residential use or the most protective standard practical, as determined by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Second, the bill requires facility owners to show, as a condition of receiving an operating license, that they will be able to pay the cost of cleaning tanks and equipment, removal and remediating the site. By pairing current operating license with financial responsibility for future closure costs, the bill lifts the financial burden from taxpayers, ensuring that facility owners take responsibility for removing tanks and cleaning oil terminal sites.

L.D. 2033 helps set our state up for success in the future. As Maine begins to achieve our greenhouse-gas reduction and renewable-energy goals, we can foresee declining use of our oil-based energy infrastructure. We must act now to ensure that when the time comes, oil terminal facilities are closed in an environmentally safe and fiscally sound manner. This bill accomplishes those goals. Sites will be clean and suitable for a wide range of projects that benefit surrounding communities. And the cleanup will be done by the owners when sites are no longer used as oil terminal facilities.

As Maine responds to the challenges of climate change, let’s be prepared by looking to the future and enacting L.D. 2033. Clean and safe closure of unused oil terminals will provide Maine communities opportunities for economic growth. And financial responsibility requirements will protect the fiscal well-being of our state, our municipalities and our residents.

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