SOUTH PORTLAND — A group of local business owners announced its support for the proposed South Portland Waterfront Protection Ordinance at a news conference Wednesday morning.
The controversial proposal, which city residents will vote on Nov. 5, is intended to prevent the export of so-called tar sands crude oil from Canada through an underground pipeline that ends at the Portland Pipe Line terminal on the city’s waterfront. The terminal operator has not said it wants to transport tar sands oil, but also has not ruled it out.
Environmentalists say the crude oil from tar sands poses a greater risk to the environment and public health than the standard crude currently pumped through the pipeline, and that exporting the oil from Alberta would accelerate global warming.
Opponents of the proposed restrictions say the tar sands oil would not be any more risky than other crude. And operators of other marine businesses in South Portland have argued that restrictions in the ordinance are so broad they would harm their business operations, too.
Proponents of the proposed ordinance released a list of 216 South Portland businesses that they said support the restrictions. Several business leaders appeared at the news conference Wednesday to endorse the measure.
“South Portland’s future is a clean, healthy community with a diverse economy,” said Tom Howard, owner of JP Thornton’s Bar & Grille. “There is no place for tar sands in our city.”
Deb Hutson, broker for Keller-Williams Real Estate, said property values in the city would “plummet” if tar sands oil comes through the community. She cited the possibility of smokestacks near Bug Light if the oil is exported through a processing facility on the waterfront. Supporting the ordinance, she said, “is the best way to protect the health, economy and way of life here in South Portland and it is best for our businesses, too.”
Supporters of the ordinance hope the show of support from businesses helps counter the opposition campaign, which is portraying the proposal as a threat to the city’s waterfront businesses.
Opponents of the ordinance responded to the news conference by circulating written statements from businesses owners opposing the ordinance.
“The (proposal) would cripple our family-owned and operated terminal in South Portland,” said Roger Hale, owner of Turner’s Island Terminal.
“If we lose the working waterfront to the (proposed ordinance), my business and the local sales we generate will be lost,” said Mark Usinger, owner of A.L. Griffin Ship Chandlery, which supplies ships that call on South Portland’s terminals.