Laments relentless oil industry spending on misinformation campaign
Statement of NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann, on South Portland Waterfront
South Portland, ME — Today’s vote of 4,453 against and 4,261 for – a 200-vote margin – on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance to protect South Portland from tar sands is a disappointing outcome for the people of South Portland who worked to protect their community from the risks of dirty tar sands oil. Hundreds of people in South Portland worked endless hours to protect their community from the risks of dirty tar sands oil. The involvement of these volunteers from every walk of life in this community demonstrates that the effort is not over. NRCM has been proud to be part of this campaign, and we are committed to be right by your side in future efforts to prevent South Portland from becoming a tar sands export terminal.
It is clear to all of us why the vote was so close: oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into South Portland, in one of the biggest expenditures on a local referendum in Maine history. This money was used to fund a relentless campaign that spread misinformation and fear.
But the opposition’s dirty campaign doesn’t change the fact that tar sands is a toxic form of oil that has already caused massive contamination of land, water, and air in many communities from Alberta to Arkansas. And we can’t let that happen, ever, here in Maine. That’s why NRCM has been pleased to support and work with the citizens of Protect South Portland, and why we have been working with communities across the state to keep tar sands oil from coming through Maine.
We have much more work to do keep Maine tar sands-free.
We are grateful to South Portland Mayor Tom Blake—a true champion for his constituents; the present and former City Councilors who supported the Ordinance, including Councilor Patti Smith; and the entire legislative delegation from South Portland, who showed such important leadership on this issue.
Tonight South Portland voters voted on a citizen-initiated zoning ordinance that would block a tar sands export facility.
In June, South Portland citizens gathered nearly 4,000 signatures (three times the required number) to put the Waterfront Protection Ordinance on the November ballot. The Ordinance was designed to prohibit a tar sands export facility from being built on the waterfront.
The facility would include two 70-foot smokestacks to burn off chemical vapors associated with loading tar sands oil onto tankers for export. Citizens were also concerned about the risk of a tanker spilling tar sands oil into Casco Bay, and the increased air pollution and toxic chemicals from likely storage of tar sands oil in huge tanks located near several South Portland schools.
Campaign disclosure reports showed that opponents of the Ordinance, made up exclusively of oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute, outspent the citizen’s group Protect South Portland and its allies by 6:1. These opponents spent more than $600,000, garnered primarily from out-of-state oil industry lobbyists. Along with citizens supporting Protect South Portland, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Environment Maine contributed significantly to the campaign to pass the Ordinance.
South Portland is the southern end of the existing Montreal-Portland pipeline that currently carries regular crude oil north from South Portland to Montreal. For three years, pipeline companies have been pursuing an overall plan to bring tar sands oil from Western Canada, across Ontario and Quebec to Montreal, and from there to South Portland.
Earlier in 2013, seven Maine communities passed non-binding resolutions opposed to the transport of tar sands oil through Maine. Most of these communities are crossed by the existing crude oil pipeline.