A Conversation about the Waterfront Protection Ordinance

On Election Day,┬áNov. 5, in South Portland, voters will decide whether or not to approve the so-called Waterfront Protection Ordinance, which supporters say is geared to prevent the transportation through the city of controversial bituminous oil — often called “tar sands” oil — from Alberta, Canada. The 236-mile, 70-year-old Portland Montreal Pipe Line currently is used to pipe oil products from the coast of Maine to Canada, and the flow would need to be reversed to accommodate the thicker oil’s export to international markets through Maine. Environmentalists oppose the extraction and transportation of bituminous oil, in part because it must be diluted with toxic chemicals in order to make it thin enough to push through existing pipes. Opponents of the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, however, say the ordinance is so broadly written, it won’t just block tar sands oil, it will also prevent any other waterfront businesses from expanding or upgrading their facilities. David Harry, who has been covering the campaigns for and against the measure as a staff reporter for The Forecaster, joins Maine Digital Press President Dan Bodoff, Bangor Daily News Portland Bureau Chief Seth Koenig and Dylan Martin of The Forecaster to lay out in clear terms how the ordinance came about, who the players are on both sides of the issue, how likely a reversal of the pipeline really is, and the legal and economic implications of the proposed rule.

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