South Portland Planning Board votes to support tar-sands moratorium

December 4th, 2013 by admin Leave a reply »

In a 4-2 vote Tuesday night, the South Portland Planning Board agreed that a proposed moratorium on any construction needed to pump so-called tar sands oil through local terminals is consistent with the city code of ordinances, and its comprehensive plan.

The moratorium now goes back to the City Council for a Dec. 16 vote with a recommendation for passage.

If adopted, the moratorium would apply only to unrefined tar sands and not any finished products, like gasoline or home heating oil, now flowing through South Portland that may have been refined from Canadian tar sands. It also narrowly targets the work of Portland Pipe Line Corp., unlike the recently defeated Waterfront Protection Ordinance (WPO), a citizen-initiated measure that supporters acknowledge intentionally cast a wide net, in order to prevent the pipeline from forging workaround partnerships with neighboring petroleum companies.

Presumed ancillary impacts of the moratorium, a much-cited reason for the narrow 4,261-4,453 loss of the WPO at the polls on Nov. 5, weighed over the Planning Board’s decision as well. However, City Attorney Sally Daggett assured board members that the document, as she drafted it, applies only to infrastructure needed to load diluted bitumen onto ships along the city’s waterfront zone.

A secondary argument, championed by employees of PPL and other petroleum-based businesses, was whether a six-month moratorium was needed at all, given that no tar sands project is pending, and a veritable mountain of city, state and federal regulatory approvals would be required if something were proposed.

“One could argue that our time

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