South Portland—In an historic vote, the South Portland City Council on
July 21st voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance, which prohibits
the bulk loading of tar sands onto tankers on the waterfront, and forbids
the construction of infrastructure for that purpose. According to
proponents of the new ordinance, bulk loading of tar sands would
increase air pollution, including volatile organic compounds and
hazardous air pollutants, on the waterfront and surrounding the tanks
next to schools and throughout the community. Two 70-foot tall
combustion smokestacks on the pier next to Bug Light, such as those
previously permitted by the city and state for bulk loading of tar sands,
would also harm scenic views and property values.
South Portland has been at the center of a battle over tar sands for more
than a year, in reaction to the possibility of tar sands coming to the port
city from Canada, as has been discussed by the oil industry. South
Portland is the only U.S. city on the East Coast with a deep-water port
and that is connected to a crude oil pipeline. The American Petroleum
Institute and its allies spent $750,000 last fall to narrowly defeat a citizen’
s initiative to block the tar sands terminal by attacking it as overly broad.
The South Portland Planning Board found in a 6-1 vote last week that the
Clear Skies Ordinance is consistent with South Portland’s comprehensive
plan, which is rooted in a decades-long planning process.
The ordinance was developed by a Draft Ordinance Committee,
comprised of three volunteer experts on land use, law, science, and
environmental management, as well as a moderator, who met 20 times
over several months in a highly transparent process to gather
information, hear from the public and stakeholders, and develop a policy
that addressed concerns about tar sands without adversely affecting
South Portland’s existing refined oil operations.