New ‘tar sands’ development moratorium on way to South Portland City Council

Posted Nov. 14, 2013, at 4:17 p.m.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — A revised 180-day moratorium on development proposals for importing “tar sands” oil will have its first City Council reading on Monday, Nov. 18.

The proposed moratorium, which would be incorporated into Chapter 27 of the city code, will also face a Dec. 3 Planning Board hearing before moving to a second council reading and vote on Dec. 16.

Affirmative votes from five city councilors will be needed to enact the proposed moratorium, which would be retroactive to Nov. 6.

The moratorium, revised primarily to include reference to “tar sands products” throughout, drew about an hour of public comment and a four-page letter from lawyer Matt Manahan, who represents Portland Pipe Line Corp.

While the company has no current plans to reverse the flow of a 236-mile pipeline to Montreal to import diluted bitumen from the Canadian province of Alberta, Manahan objected to the moratorium on grounds it would usurp federal pipeline regulations.

Manahan also said moratorium wording that cites possible environmental and health consequences related to tar sands oil are inaccurate.

With Mayor Tom Blake absent, council comments indicated enough support to pass the moratorium, even if its intent remains disputed.

Councilor Linda Cohen, who first suggested a moratorium before the proposed waterfront protection ordinance was defeated at the polls on Election Day, said her opposition to the WPO should never have been seen as support for importing tar sands oil.

She and Councilor Melissa Linscott said the moratorium will provide the opportunity for wider discussion by a committee about tar sands oil and the possible need for an ordinance governing its import.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done,” Linscott said of enacting the moratorium.

Councilor Jerry Jalbert, who last week reiterated his opposition to importing tar sands oil, also said he favors the moratorium.

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