The American Petroleum Insititute has told South Portland that a moratorium on tar sands oil activity would likely violate a number of laws, as well as the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
The city of South Portland, which is currently considering a moratorium on the shipping of tar sands oil from its port, may be facing a legal challenge from the oil industry.
The American Petroleum Insititute sent the city a letter to that effect last week, saying that a moratorium on tar sands activity would likely violate a number of laws, as well as the Constitution’s Commerce Clause which keeps the government from unfairly impeding interstate commerce.
“I’m not really surprised by it,” says South Portland councilor Tom Blake. Blake says that the API has made it clear that it intends to fight any actions the city takes to regulate and control the transport of tar sands oil through its port. “They feel, in my opinion, like they have a free road to do what they want, when they want, how they want, where they want. And they will oppose whatever we do in court that puts any restrictions on them at all.”
The council will take final action next Monday on whether to impose the 180-day moratorium. In the meantime, however, the council is holding a series of work sessions to draft language on a future ordinance to regulate tar sands development; the first is scheduled for tonight.
Proponents of restrictions say tar sands oil poses significant environmental and health risks; opponents argue that it’s no worse than any other kind of oil, and that restrictions could hobble the waterfront economy.
Blake says the city has not yet taken legal advice on how to handle the API letter threatening legal action.
This story was reported and written by Susan Sharon.