The time has come for South Portland to begin the process of imagining the city without the oil tank farms that form the current landmarks of our waterfront and sit adjacent to many residential neighborhoods.

South Portland appears to be at a crossroads. 

Will the city continue its status quo? Will it continue to be home to 120 massive above-ground oil tanks owned by five oil companies that are clustered around the city’s waterfront and abut many of the city’s neighborhoods? The tank farms are the environmental dinosaurs that roam throughout the city with their toxic fumes and their voracious appetite for providing tons of greenhouse gases through the statewide distribution and consumption of fossil fuels. 

The tank farms are at the very heart of the climate crisis in terms of their fossil fuel storage, their ownership, their financing and their threat to our public health.  

Is South Portland prepared to deal with the climate crisis that is now unfolding in the city?  

In 2021, South Portland City Council unanimously adopted the One Climate Future plan and also declared a climate emergency. Will South Portland use this plan to begin the long-range planning that is needed to address the elimination of the tank farms and the consideration of alternative uses for these sites?    


Unfortunately, the One Climate Future plan does not address the future of the tank farms. In fact, the tank farms are not even discussed as a component of the One Climate Future plan.   

The One Climate Future plan puts forward lofty and admirable goal for the future. It states: 

“One Climate Future is a transformational plan. South Portland has committed to transitioning all municipal operations to clean energy sources by 2040, and to reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 2017 levels by 2050. Driven by the leadership of the youth in our cities and globally, South Portland has committed to accelerate this transition, aiming to achieve as much greenhouse gas emissions savings as possible within a 2030 timeframe.”  

These goals require planning for bold changes. The One Climate Future plan states: “We must rethink the way we design buildings, re-envision how we travel, and transition to a more sustainable economy by radically transforming our current energy systems and infrastructure.”  

Currently, South Portland is undertaking and adopting a new comprehensive plan, Vision 2040. In this, we have an opportunity to set South Portland in a new direction. The Vision 2040 plan can reflect both the goals set forward in the One Climate Future plan and embrace a vision for alternatives to the tank farms.   

South Portland needs robust participation in the Vision 2040 comprehensive plan process to create a new vision for the tank farms. Through this process, we will be protecting ourselves, our neighbors and our community from the ever-increasing environmental catastrophes that are forecast to unfold over the coming decades.    

Fortunately, the participatory process for the Vision 2040 comprehensive plan will begin this summer and conclude in the fall.

If residents of South Portland participate, if we organize and if we understand that our city requires transformation, we can create a new vision for South Portland: a vision without the tank farms and a vision for addressing the climate crisis as set forward in the One Climate Future plan. 

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