When Portland Pipeline, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and Suncor, tried to build a tar sands export terminal next to Bug Light Park on the shores of Casco Bay in South Portland, Maine, the community banded together to launch a strong, intense and successful effort to block the oil industry. The oil company wants to reverse the flow of an aging pipeline to transport tar sands oil, a thick, heavy sludge from the ravaged Alberta arboreal forest, where the oil industry has destroyed an area the size of Greece. It would then travel through Canada, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for export in tankers from South Portland. This 75 year old pipeline passes through many water sources including Sebago Lake which provides drinking water to 20% of Maine’s population. They would build two 70 foot smokestacks on the shore of Casco Bay. These stacks would emit toxic carcinogenic fumes into our neighborhoods. It would put at risk the rich sea life and shoreline of our pristine bay. A groundswell of support resulted in the passage of South Portland’s Clear Skies Ordinance in 2014. It stopped corporate oil in its tracks. It was a battle and victory for a community’s self determination to protect its citizens and to protect our planet from the dirtiest oil on earth. Our purpose is to ensure permits are never issued for a tar sands oil project and a land use ordinance is put in place to prevent tar sands oil from being ever being brought to our city. Together, we can keep our community healthy, clean, and thriving!
What is the Clear Skies Ordinance? The Clear Skies Ordinance bans the loading of crude oil onto tankers in South Portland’s harbor. Loading of crude oil, especially tar sands derived crude, is accompanied by the emission of toxic chemicals in the process. The ordinance is based on the City’s right to regulate air quality for the health and welfare of its citizens, hence its name.
How did it happen? On July 21, 2014 the City of South Portland City Council passed the precedent-setting Clear Skies Ordinance by a vote of 6 to 1. Twenty days later, when it officially became law, South Portland effectively shut down the possibility of bringing tar sands from Alberta, Canada to Casco Bay in Maine via the Portland Montreal Pipeline. This was a hard fought victory, lasting many months. Most importantly, it was the result of citizen power rising up against the power of Big Oil.
What next? Six months later the Pipeline sued the City of South Portland, alleging, in effect, that the City had violated their right to carry on business and develop uses for an existing pipeline. Imagine a city of 25,000 people taking on Big Oil in the courts! Even though the City is well positioned financially, that doesn’t come cheap. So the City set up a Clear Skies Legal Defense Fund to help with the expenses. PSP has been actively raising money for this fund -- from pizza nights in local restaurants to solicitation from regional and national environmental groups.
Crowdfunding On November 15th, 2016, Protect South Portland will launch a crowd funding effort to raise money -- and consciousness-- across cyber space for the Clear Skies Legal Defense Fund. For information about that click on: Court Case The case has been brought in Federal District Court and will be heard in Portland, Maine on December 8th, 2016. Stay tuned.