2013-12-20 / Front Page

Tar sands

Resident: “All I want for Christmas is a tar sands moratorium.”
Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council voted in favor of the tar sands moratorium by a 6-1 margin at a meeting on Monday, Dec. 16. The moratorium needed a five-person majority to pass the second and final reading.

The vote institutes a six-month freeze on construction on the waterfront while a yet-to-be-appointed three-member committee drafts an ordinance to prevent bituminous oil from being transported into South Portland.

In two separate segments, members of the audience were encouraged to address the council and share their feelings on the matter.

“All I want for Christmas is a tar sands moratorium,” said the night’s first speaker, Andrew Jones of South Portland.

Jones said there is a lack of holiday spirit at the American Petroleum Institute. South Portland residents have been receiving letters from its vice president, Harry Ng, warning them of the repercussions of passing the incorrectly titled “Watershed” Protection Ordinance.

Chris Gillis, a member of Portland Pipeline Co., felt the process moving toward the moratorium and the decision to leave any member of the petroleum industry off the committee was “arriving at a predetermined conclusion.”

“At a time when families are struggling in this difficult economy, the moratorium sends a chilling anti-business message,” Gillis said. “It is clear that the council is simply interested in the end result that excludes (the oil) industry from participation.”

Before voting for the moratorium, Councilor Tom Blake made comments to the crowd in attendance at city council chambers, as well as those sitting on the first floor in overflow seating. He assured the emotional crowd that the council’s vote that night was not a privilege but a responsibility.

“We have the responsibility to think globally and act locally,” said the former mayor. “This is only the first step.”

Councilor Patti Smith let her feelings be known by quoting Mother Teresa.

“’We can do no great things, only small things with great love.’ Well, when I vote for this moratorium in the affirmative, this will be my act of great love,” she said.

Councilor Michael Pock, once again the council’s lone contributor of a dissenting vote, said once again that the vote on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance should have been the decisive factor in the discussions of tar sands. He also called the decision to create a committee without oil company representation as one-sided.

“If the vote had gone the other way and the oil company said ‘the people of South Portland can not be represented on this committee’ everybody would be screaming,” Pock said.

As he did at the first reading of the moratorium, David Orbeton of South Portland accused Pock of having a conflict of interest due to the councilor’s possible affiliation with oil industry insiders.

Moving forward, the council tried to map out a time frame for the readings of the new ordinance so the drafting committee would have a deadline to aim for. Although the moratorium expires on April 16, six months after it was originally presented to the council, it can be extended if viewed necessary.

City Attorney Sally Daggatt recommended to the council that it set early deadlines if it didn’t want the moratorium to be extended.

“It’s a mistake to think everyone will be happy with the first draft,” Daggatt said. “The council should plan on it taking more than two city council meetings and a planning board meeting.”

Just like the moratorium, the proposed ordinance will have to pass two separate readings by the council by at least a five-vote majority.

In other municipal matters, it was announced by City Manager Jim Gailey that Yankee Ford had won the bid to sell the South Portland police department’s three 2014 Ford Explorers. After Ford discontinued production of the Crown Victoria in 2011, police departments nationwide opted for Dodge Chargers and Explorers.

The city’s police chief Edward Googins said the Explorers were “by far the better vehicle,” albeit the Charger is “tough looking.” The SUVs have shown to have a quicker response time than other vehicles and is the top police vehicle replacement model in the U.S., according to Ford.

At the beginning of the meeting, SPC-TV director Tony Vigue was given a leadership award for his dedication and service to the community. Vigue first began working with the city in 1995.

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