Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

South Portland, Maine Wins Critical Fight vs. Big Oil

Popular
South Portland, Maine Wins Critical Fight vs. Big Oil
The Portland Head Lighthouse in South Portland, Maine. traveler1116 / Getty Images

The city of South Portland, Maine has won an important victory in a three-year legal battle to stop a pipeline company from offloading tar sands crude oil on its waterfront, after a judge ruled Friday that the city's ordinance against the activity was constitutional, The Portland Press Herald reported.

Portland Pipe Line Corp. had wanted to reverse the flow of its pipeline from South Portland to Montreal as demand for foreign crude fell and Canadian tar sands production took off, but the city council blocked that move with a "Clear Skies" ordinance in 2014.


"Faced with the prospect of hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil being loaded onto marine tank vessels in the city and threatening the health of the residents and preventing redevelopment of the waterfront, the City Council prohibited this new activity," South Portland Mayor Linda Cohen said in a statement reported by The Portland Press Herald. "We are pleased that the court upheld the ordinance."

Portland Pipe Line Corp. had argued the ordinance was unconstitutional, saying it violated the Dormant Commerce and Foreign Commerce clauses of the Constitution that give Congress the power to regulate international and interstate trade, but U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. ruled that was not the case.

The company could still decide to appeal the ruling, but environmental law experts think the case could serve as a model for other communities standing up to big oil.

"For other communities looking at opposing fossil fuel infrastructure, this case is a blueprint for how you should do it," Vermont Law School environmental law professor Patrick Parenteau told Inside Climate News. "It's a strong opinion, and it could result in a really significant precedent for local control on petroleum-based industries."

South Portland was in part able to pass the ordinance because Maine has a "home rule authority" that allows municipalities to go beyond state law to protect their communities' health and well-being.

Fellow Vermont Law School professor Ken Rumelt told Inside Climate News that the ruling was "a powerful tool" for other communities. "It says that a community, assuming there is no state law preempting what they're trying to do, can say no, we don't want to suffer these impacts," he said.

The pipeline company, a Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil, Shell and Suncor Energy, first sued to stop the ordinance in 2015, according to The Portland Press Herald.

Friday's decision came after a four-day trial in June, in which the company argued that there were almost no new foreign deliveries to the port and that their survival as a business depended on reversing the pipeline.

The city council, meanwhile, partly passed the ordinance because the company's pipeline-reversal plan included two 70-foot-high smokestacks near a waterfront park that would have emitted pollutants while burning compounds off of the crude before loading it into tankers.

Supporters of the ordinance also said that tar sands oil was more dangerous to load onto tankers and move through pipelines, and more difficult to clean up in the case of an oil spill, The Portland Press Herald reported.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches on its maiden test flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 6, 2018. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Three men are paying $55 million each to travel to space, the AP reported.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

#SaveSalla is a campaign launched by a Finnish community in partnership with the youth climate movement Fridays for Future. www.savesalla.org

By Jessica Corbett

With temperatures across the globe — and particularly in the Arctic — rising due to lackluster efforts to address the human-caused climate crisis, one of the coldest towns on Earth is throwing its hat in the ring to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A deadly tornado touched down near the city of Fultondale, Alabama on Jan. 25, 2021. Justin1569 / Wikipedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A tornado tore through a city north of Birmingham, Alabama, Monday night, killing one person and injuring at least 30.

Read More Show Less
An empty school bus by a field of chemical plants in "Cancer Alley," one of the most polluted areas of the U.S. that stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, where oil refineries and petrochemical plants reside alongside suburban homes. Giles Clarke / Getty Images

By David Konisky

On his first day in office President Joe Biden started signing executive orders to reverse Trump administration policies. One sweeping directive calls for stronger action to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable, including those who "disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities."

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Katherine Kornei

Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.

Read More Show Less