Environmentalists are calling passage of the ordinance historic, something that could galvanize other community activists. But the pipeline company is characterizing it as “illegal” and considering its next move.
Just prior to the council’s final vote, Tom Harding, vice president of the Portland Montreal Pipe Line Corporation, got up to say that he thinks the energy industry, and in particular his 70-year-old company, is being singled out by the ordinance. PPL has been in business for more than 70 years. It has a good safety record, Harding says, and a history of being generous to the community.
"I think it’s a sad day when science and facts are cast aside in the name of politics and popularity to begin the methodical process of shutting down the petroleum business in South Portland," Harding said.
[let that sink in]
Supporters say the Clear Skies Ordinance will not affect current operations in the city. But it will prevent the future uploading of Canadian and other crude in Portland Harbor to tanker ships for distribution. And that effectively restricts the way the company can can use its 236-mile-long pipeline between Maine and Montreal. PPL had expressed interest in using it to pump tar sands from Canada to Maine for export on the world market.
Company attorney Matt Manahan warned councilors that the ordinance is not legally defensible. “This ordinance, if passed, would clearly be preempted by federal and state law,” Manahan said. “There can be no doubt about that, and it’s a mistake to move forward with an illegal ordinance.”