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The South Portland City Council has voted to ban the export of Canadian tar-sands crude through the city, effectively ending any attempt to bring the crude from western Canada through a pipeline into the city. While there are no such plans in the work, Portland Pipeline Corporation Vice-President Tom Hardison spoke against the proposal.
"I continue to be concerned about the clearly intended consequences the passage of this ordinance will have on the energy industry in South Portland and the industry's ability to adapt to and meet the needs of a dynamic industry and the energy needs of the region and North America," Hardison said.
Crude from the tar sands of western Canada is fueling a surge in North American production, but environmentalists say tar sands oil is difficult to clean if spilled and dangerous to ship.
"It's an awesome accomplishment," says Emily Figdor of Environment Maine. "It really gives me hope that other communities that also are dealing with serious local impacts from tar sands infrastructure can come together and similarly protect what is so dear to them."
South Portland councilor Michael Pock was the only "no" vote, as he was two weeks ago. Opponents of the new ordinance say the referendum could hurt the city's economic future, though the ordinance was crafted to allow existing petroleum handling in the city to continue.
An attorney for Portland Pipeline Corp., Matt Manahan, warned the ordinance would be found to be pre-empted by federal and state law. But Sean Mahoney of the Conservation Law Foundation challenged that and said his organization will support South Portland if the city faces suit to overturn the anti-tar-sands ordinance.
Opponents of the ordinance will have 20 days to collect some 900 signatures to force a vote on the ordinance.