Legal Update: Clear Skies Ordinate

Clear Skies Ordinance
Update on Court Case

As you probably know, once the city of South Portland passed with overwhelming support the Clear Skies Ordinance (CSO), the oil industry, as expected, filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit is still in the courts.

The following is our best attempt to describe where things are with the lawsuit at present. At the end, you will find suggestions of things you can do now!

Legal Update

The attorneys for the City of South Portland had submitted a motion to the court to dismiss the case, contending that the case was not “ripe”, in effect that there was really no case. This was based on evidence presented by the city’s expert witness that there is not a supply of diluted bitumen (tar sands oil) available to Portland Pipeline (PPL) for transport from Canada to South Portland. During the hearing the CEO of the PPL admitted under cross examination that the Pipeline had misled the citizens of South Portland in a letter sent to the residents asserting that they had no plan to transport tar sands oil to South Portland. He further admitted that, had the City not declared a moratorium immediately after the WPO (Waterfront Protection Ordinance) was defeated, they would have proceeded at once with their project. In spite of this, and in spite of the City’s expert witness’ testimony, Judge Woodcock did not rule in favor of the City’s motion to dismiss.

The case is now expected to proceed for consideration of the allegations by the Portland Pipeline brought against the city for passing the Clear Skies Ordinance – for example, the allegation that the ordinance violates federal authority over interstate commerce. The attorneys for the City of South Portland argue their position that the toxic fumes generated by this potential project would be unhealthy for our air.

Both parties submitted written briefs to the court a few months ago to get the judge to decide the case (in that party’s favor) without the need for a trial. The judge may hold a hearing on the motions for summary judgment, at which point the lawyers will argue the issue in person. If he does hold a hearing, it is likely that he is very far along in his opinion and just giving parties a final opportunity to make some points or to answer any questions he may have. At this time, a date for that hearing has not been set.

Sometime after the hearing, the judge will issue a ruling. It is also possible that the court will not hold a hearing on the motions for summary judgment, and that he could issue an opinion without hearing further argument. The ruling of the judge will either grant summary judgment in favor of a party, or require the parties to go to trial.

What You Can Do to Help
1.Write letters to the editor at the Sentry or The Forecaster to show support for the Clear Skies Ordinance and the work of the City Council and the city’s legal team in defending the future of our city.
The Sentry – editor@inthecourier.com
The Forecaster –editor@theforecaster.net

2. Write emails to all the city councilors thanking them for their continuing efforts to defend the Clear Skies Ordinance in the lawsuit in order to protect the future health of our city.
Patti Smith – psmith@southportland.org
Linda Cohen – lcohen@southportland.org
Maxine Beecher – mbeecher@southportland.org
Sue Henderson – shenderson@southportland.org
Eben Rose – erose@southportland.org
Claude Morgan – cmorgan@southportland.org
Brad Fox – bfox@southportland.org

3. Donate to the Clear Skies Legal Fund – (there is a donation link on southportland.org)
This is a way to help with the cost of the lawsuit, but also to let the city council know that they continue to have the support of the people to continue standing up to the oil industry!

~ Meg Braley and the Protect South Portland Team

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