Legal fight looms on crude oil in Portland

The Yasa Golden Marmara prepared to offload crude oil in South Portland in April, 2013.
Fred Field/ File
The Yasa Golden Marmara prepared to offload crude oil in South Portland in April, 2013.

PORTLAND, Maine — Environmental groups are digging in for a long fight against a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn South Portland’s ban on loading crude oil onto tankers at the city’s waterfront.

Portland Pipe Line Corp. this month sued the city in US District Court in Portland over the ban adopted last year. The city ordinance was designed to prevent the South Portland-to-Montreal oil pipeline from being reversed, which would allow Canadian oil to come into Maine.

Residents and environmentalists have expressed concern about the potential importation of tar sands oil, which they say is dangerous to ship and difficult to clean if spilled. They suspect Portland Pipe Line wants to load the Canadian oil onto tankers at South Portland to ship to buyers elsewhere.


Portland Pipe Line officials said last year the company doesn’t plan to reverse the pipeline but haven’t said why the company wants to put crude on tankers at South Portland. The lawsuit said only that the city’s ordinance “contravenes fundamental principles upon which our Republic was founded.”

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Members of environmental groups last week said they plan to file papers to join the lawsuit once the city responds to it.

“We think it’s a good ordinance,” said Mary Jane Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Protect South Portland. “It’s a little disappointing, in the face of the huge amount of community support, the pipeline would just fly in the face of that.”

The pipeline pumps crude from South Portland to Montreal.