South Portland Bans Shipments of Tar Sands Oil

By Jordan Schneider

On Monday, the City Council of South Portland, Maine, voted 6-1 to approve a zoning ordinance that effectively bans shipments of Canadian tar sands oil out of Casco Bay. The Clear Skies Ordinance prohibits the bulk loading of crude oil, including tar sands oil, onto tankers at Casco Bay, and it prohibits the construction or expansion of terminals and other facilities needed to process and export tar sands oil.

The passage of the Clear Skies Ordinance comes after a yearlong campaign by South Portland residents to prevent the oil industry from using an aging pipeline – the Portland-Montreal Pipeline – to establish a U.S. East Coast shipping route for tar sands oil from western Canada. Last November, the city attempted to pass a similar ordinance, the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, which was narrowly defeated after Big Oil launched a $750,000 campaign to oppose it. As we described in our recent report, Inside the Big Oil Playbook, the industry used a number of deceptive “astroturf” (or fake grassroots) tools and tactics to make opposition to the ordinance appear homegrown, including using an industry-backed front group called “Energy Citizens” to take out ads in local papers, and to appear at anti-ordinance rallies and City Council meetings.

After Monday’s vote, it was clear that the industry has not given up on its efforts to ship tar sands oil from South Portland. On Tuesday, Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, vowed to “evaluate all political and legal means to overturn this ordinance.”

“The fight is not over,” he said.