SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) — A company that operates a pipeline in Maine announced Thursday that it surrendered a permit that has raised concerns about its plans to transport tar sands oil to South Portland.
The Portland Pipe Line Corp. said it's giving up the 2009 permit it has with the state's environmental department, which would allow for the construction of two vapor control units in the city in order to prove that it has no present or future plans to move tar sands.
Tar sands opponents worry that the 236-mile underground pipeline that transports crude oil from South Portland to Montreal could be used in reverse to send tar sands oil from Canada, a move that would require the construction of the vapor control units.
A citizen group called Protect South Portland gathered 3,000 signatures to put a proposed ordinance on the city's November ballot designed to prevent that from occurring.
Portland Pipe Line Corp. says that proposal, which would prevent further expansion of any petroleum facilities, will hamper existing facilities along the city's waterfront.
The company has maintained that despite its proposal to reverse the flow of the pipeline several years ago, no such project is in the works now. But Protect South Portland has said that the outstanding permit proves that the company has its eye on transporting the oil.
Larry Wilson, the company's CEO, said in a statement that the negative impact of the ordinance "is too significant for citizens to vote based on the erroneous assumption that the PPLC has an imminent project."
But Cathy Chapman, spokeswoman for Protect South Portland, said in a statement that the announcement does not change the group's view on the need for the ordinance, pointing to the fact that the company could reapply.
"We are not protected from tar sands until the Waterfront Protection Ordinance passes," she said.