Protect South Portland
Danielle Waugh

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A large crowd turned out in South Portland Wednesday night to comment on a new crude oil ordinance that would keep tar sands oil out of the city.

The South Portland City Council is considering the "Clear Skies Ordinance," which prohibits the bulk loading of crude oil, including tar sands oil. It also prohibits the building of infrastructure that would export the crude oil.

This ordinance is the latest in the long debate over the controversial oil.

Last November, voters narrowly rejected the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, which limited the growth of the petroleum industry on the waterfront.

After the election, the South Portland City Council passed a 180-day moratorium on tar sands oil, and created a Draft Ordinance Committee. That committee created the Clear Skies Ordinance.

Hundreds of people attended a public hearing Wednesday night wearing sky blue tee shirts to show support. Many of them spoke about environmental concerns, such as the pollutants crude oil can emit into the air.

Some supporters said they thought this ordinance has a better chance than the Waterfront Protection Ordinance because it more narrowly targets tar sands.

"It's straight forward, and really the kind of finest point to get the job done preventing tar sands from being exported from the city," said Taryn Hallweaver, a spokesperson from Environment Maine.

But members of the Working Waterfront Coalition say they have concerns about the ordinance, even though crude oil is not currently exported from the terminal.

Burt Russell, Vice President of Operations at Sprague Energy, said the energy industry is constantly evolving, and limiting crude oil exportation could limit future development.

He said he also has concerns about the precedent this ordinance could set.

"The city concluded on their own that there was an eminent risk, and now they've extended that to what was initially oil sands to all crude oil," said Russell, "which to me sends a signal that if they can do that with this product, they can do that with other projects."

The City Council is expected to take an initial vote on the Clear Skies Ordinance on July 7th. They would then pass the ordinance to the planning board for review.

The council would take a final vote on the ordinance on July 24th.