Protect South Portland says it has raised more than $11,000 to help the city with a court case that has already cost it more than $1 million.
by Kelley Bouchard, staff writer
Portland Press Herald news story
SOUTH PORTLAND — The advocacy group Protect South Portland has raised more than $11,000 through a crowd-funding website to support the city’s fight against a federal lawsuit by the Portland Pipe Line Corp. that has already cost more than $1 million in legal fees.
Group leaders presented a check for $10,000 to the City Council on Monday night, bringing the total for private contributions to the city’s Clear Skies Legal Defense Fund to $135,242.
A lawsuit filed by Portland Pipe Line Corp. challenging South Portland’s oil export ban had cost the city more than $1 million by December.
A lawsuit filed by Portland Pipe Line Corp. challenging South Portland’s oil export ban had cost the city more than $1 million by December. 2013 file photo/John Ewing
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The group’s fundraising campaign, posted on Fundrazr.com in December, had raised $11,825 toward its $25,000 goal by Tuesday afternoon.
Group spokeswoman Mary Jane Ferrier said the campaign has received donations ranging from $5 to $500 from people who support the city’s Clear Skies ordinance, which banned the loading of crude oil into tankers on South Portland’s waterfront.
“All of these donations speak loudly of the strong support of South Portland citizens for this ordinance,” Ferrier said in a prepared statement.
Passed by the council in July 2014, the ordinance effectively blocked the pipeline company from potentially reversing the flow of its 236-mile South Portland-to-Montreal pipeline.
It was approved after city voters narrowly defeated a similar proposal in 2013, the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, which would have prevented any new, expanded or rebuilt petroleum facilities on the waterfront.
The company sued the city in February 2015, claiming that the ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with interstate commerce, discriminates against Canadian interests, devalues the pipeline and infringes on areas of regulation.
The Clear Skies ordinance cites concerns about air pollution associated with the bulk loading of crude oil into tankers.
More recently, with Canada refining heavy crude from its western provinces and North Dakota, declining demand for foreign crude slowed tanker deliveries to South Portland’s waterfront to only 11 last year, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
The company applied for a property tax abatement in December, blaming the Clear Skies ordinance for a 42 percent reduction in the $44.7 million assessed value of its holdings across the city.
If the city assessor grants the abatement as requested, the company’s annual tax bill will drop from $791,447 to $460,200.
Parties in the lawsuit are awaiting action by U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. to determine whether the lawsuit will go to trial this spring in Portland.
Whatever the outcome, the case is expected to wind up in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston and add to the legal costs.