The oil storage tanks of Global Partners and other companies located in South Portland are currently emitting well over what they are permitted to emit according to the EPA. The citizens and city officials of South Portland were alerted to this violation in March 2019, when the EPA filed a complaint in Federal District Court against Global Partners LP for exceeding their emissions license for well over what they are allowed. Apparently the EPA had never notified South Portland of repeated violations over a period of at least 7 years.
The citizens in the neighborhood of Pleasantdale, where Global’s storage tanks are located, have been complaining for years of seeing plumes, experiencing noxious odors and suffering from headaches and other symptoms. Their complaints have virtually been ignored. There are several schools, daycare facilities, and housing for the elderly in this area. Our most vulnerable citizens, our children and our elderly, are being exposed to noxious fumes and the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) present in these fumes.
The issue has been further complicated by the fact that the Federal EPA and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) have not been able to agree on the same technique for measuring emissions. Although the MDEP has been monitoring the tank farms, they claim they have not found violations and have not taken adequate measures to address the emissions.
The EPA filed a consent decree to address the violations by Global, which called for Global to pay the U.S. Justice Department $40,000 in penalties and allot $150,000 to replace/retrofit their wood-burning appliances in the area (of which there are not many in the area). When the citizens of South Portland discovered the terms of the consent decree, there was an outpouring of anger and indignation at the fact that Global did not have to admit wrongdoing and did not have to address the harm being done now and over many years. Read the consent decree>>
Sprague Oil Company also received a notice of violation from the EPA for several years of violations for which there has never been a consent decree or a filing with the Department of Justice. This issue has not been resolved.
Protect South Portland’s role
Protect South Portland has been actively working to inform the public and explore our legal rights to demand cleaner air. There have been neighborhood meetings to hear complaints and to receive citizen input on how to move forward. Members attend City Council meetings and workshops to demand immediate action to minimize these emissions.
After much research on best practices for abating emissions, Protect South Portland in conjunction with other environmental groups filed our official comments on the consent decree to appeal the existing decree and seek a more appropriate settlement. The Justice Department rejected our appeal. Our next step will be to call for Global's permit to be revoked.
Clean air advisory committee
The South Portland City Council has formed a Clean Air Advisory Committee (CAAC), charged with creating a strategy to improve the air quality in South Portland and the surrounding area. All meetings will be posted and open to the public. Read more about CAAC here>>
DEP air quality findings
After pressure from the people of South Portland, the Maine DEP agreed to conduct limited air quality testing using air collection canisters distributed to individuals in some parts of the city. View results on the DEP’s website>>
In March 2020, Gov. Janet Mills signed two bills into law that will affect the operation and closure of petroleum terminals and storage facilities in Maine, both of which were supported by Protect South Portland. LD 2033 requires the owners of petroleum terminals to remove tanks that are no longer in use and clean up the sites. LD 1915 directs the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to study methods to measure and estimate air emissions from above-ground petroleum storage tanks.