In a reversal being hailed as a new precedent, a pipeline operator is dropping its six-year-long federal
lawsuit against the city of South Portland, Maine.
Portland Pipe Line Corporation has agreed “to voluntarily dismiss its appeal of a previous federal court
judgment that upheld the city’s Clear Skies Ordinance,” writes the Press Herald. The ordinance forbade
bulk loading of crude oil into tankers at the city’s local port in the name of public health.
“The dismissal follows the city’s victories in U.S. District Court in Portland and in the Maine Supreme
Judicial Court, as well as an amicus brief filed by the Biden administration last month supporting the
city’s stance that the ordinance doesn’t violate the Constitution, federal laws, or foreign policies,” the
Tracing the tangled history of the case, the Herald recalls that the ordinance was first passed in 2014,
five years after South Portland approved the company’s proposal to reverse the flow in a 236-kilometre underground pipeline “and bulk-load crude oil onto marine tank vessels in South Portland’s harbour.”
Environmentalists argued that transferring tar sands/oil sands crude to the tankers would expose South Portlanders to unacceptable levels of air pollution.
Jonathan Ettinger, lead attorney for South Portland, commended the city council “for having the courage and commitment to defend its principles and its Clear Skies Ordinance against an aggressive challenge.” Speaking to the precedent-setting nature of the outcome, he added that the case “confirms that state and local governments may exercise important police powers to regulate oil pipelines and terminals to protect air quality, public health, scenic vistas, and quality of life.”