U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ruled against many of the company’s arguments but left open the question whether the ban on crude oil exports interferes with interstate commerce.
by Kevin Miller, Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald news story
A federal judge on Friday largely rejected arguments from Portland Pipe Line Company challenging the legality of South Portland’s municipal ban on crude oil exports.
In February, 2015, Portland Pipe Line sued in federal court to overturn a 2014 city ordinance banning shipments of crude oil from South Portland’s waterfront. The municipal ordinance, dubbed “Clear Skies,” effectively prohibits the company from reversing the flow of its pipeline between South Portland and Montreal in order to ship crude oil that would have flowed to Maine from the oil fields of western Canada.
The company had argued the ban was unconstitutional because it interferes with interstate trade, discriminates against Canadian interests, devalues the pipeline and infringes on areas of regulation best left to the federal government.
In his decision on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock rejected the company’s claims that several federal laws preempted South Portland actions and therefore created a conflict with Clear Skies ordinance. Woodcock also disagreed with Portland Pipe Line’s arguments that the Clear Skies ordinance could interfere with federal maritime law and the U.S. government’s “foreign affairs powers.”
But Woodcock took no stance on the critical question of Clear Skies’ impact on interstate and foreign commerce. Instead, Woodcock wrote that a future “fact finder” – potentially the court – will have to resolve those federal commerce issues given that “the parties disagree both mildly and vigorously about facts critical to the resolution of the Commerce Clause issue.”