The South Portland City Council (Maine) voted Monday night to ban the transfer of crude oil onto ocean tankers, effectively ending any attempt to bring oil from western Canada through a pipeline to the city’s port, the second-largest oil terminal on the east coast.
Currently the pipeline transports crude from Portland to Canada and the ordinance is intended to prevent the reversal of its flow to bring Alberta oil sands into the American city, Bangor Daily News reported.
Prior to Monday’s vote, the city council had approved a temporary moratorium on the development of infrastructure necessary for the export of oil sands from the waterfront, the paper added.
Crude from Canada’s oil sands is fuelling the surge in North American production, but conservationists claim that sort of oil is especially difficult to clean if spilled, and dangerous to ship.
Tom Hardison from the Portland Pipe Line told AP the city has made a rush decision and bowed to environmental "extremists." He added the zoning changes amounted to a "job-killing ordinance" that prevents the city's oil terminals from adapting to meet the energy needs of North America.
Operators of the Portland Pipe Line have denied any current plan to reverse the flow of the pipeline. Supporters and other industry actors say the ordinance signals a willingness to restrict all businesses unfairly.
Built in 1941 to speed crude oil to Montreal refineries to support Canada's war effort, the Portland line consists of two pipelines that can move 600,000 barrels a day. But over the last three decades, its business has dropped from serving about one tanker a day to about one a week, local press reported.
South Portland is a key stop in Enbridge’s (TSX:ENB) Line 9 pipeline reversal project, which would send Alberta crude eastward, to be refined at the Suncor refinery in Montreal.