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February 10, 2017

South Portland's legal costs mount in pipeline lawsuit

South Portland's legal tab for defending its 2014 "Clear Skies Ordinance," which prohibits the bulk loading of crude oil into tankers on the city's waterfront, topped $1 million in December and is expected to need another $600,000 if the federal lawsuit filed by Portland Pipe Line Corp. goes to trial.

The Portland Press Herald reported that South Portland's city council voted 6-1 this week to appropriate $500,000 in surplus funds and more than $100,000 in donations to add to the Clear Skies Ordinance Legal Defense Fund.

Portland Pipe Line Corp., which owns a waterfront facility in South Portland, and the American Waterways Operators filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland in February 2015 to overturn the ordinance, which is meant to block the flow of tar sands oil from Canada into Maine.

Their lawsuit asserts the city's ordinance is causing interference with interstate trade, diminishes the value of Portland Pipe Line Corp.'s pipeline and discriminates against Canadian interests. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Montreal Pipe Line Limited, a privately held Canadian Corp.; American Waterways is a trade group representing operators of barges and other vessels, also says the ordinance infringes on federal regulatory processes.

The city has created a tab on its website for the Clear Skies Legal Defense Fund, enabling supporters of the ordinance to make donations toward payment of legal fees charged by the city's law firm of Jensen, Baird, Gardner and Henry and the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag that specializes in environmental law and litigation.

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