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 on May 29, 2020 for several years of violations. The Dept. of Justice filed a consent decree with Sprague for violations at their facilities in both South Portland and Searsport, Maine, as well as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island. Read the complaint>>
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. PSP is advocating in the process as the Clean Air Advisory Committee and the city are reviewing Global's permit application with the DEP.
PSP is advocating for continuous emissions monitoring and control to be included in the permit.
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. CAAC’s final report is due to be released soon. 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>>
RESOLVE LD 1915
In 2020 the legislature, according to Resolve LD 1915, directed the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to study the best methods to measure and control emissions on all tanks in Maine, including reviewing what other states and regulatory bodies require of tank operators. The department did not fulfill the mandate of the resolve. Instead they dismissed the need for more comprehensive monitoring and have entirely excluded the efforts of Massachusetts to address the same issue. The MDEP has focused more on odor than on the risk to public health and has recommended little more than the status quo.
Currently, no actual testing of emissions is required for operators to obtain licenses. In the report, the DEP defends depending solely on formulas developed by the American Petroleum Institute. These formulas have been deemed acceptable in the report despite the US EPA finding that the oil companies using this method were grossly underestimating their emissions with no accountability.
The Environmental and Natural Resources Committee is now considering a bill to establish more stringent requirements for the oil companies doing business in South Portland and statewide. We would like such a bill to require emissions to be measured to define the problem chemicals and provide the best means for mitigation to be incorporated into the requirements for tank operating permit renewal. We feel stack testing and continuous fence line monitoring with data available to the public should be mandated. Also we seek to require all emissions to be treated to protect the community from the effects of toxic chemicals.
PSP feels the lack of any requirement to monitor or control the toxic emissions from these tanks which are located within our neighborhoods and making residents sick is not acceptable and a social justice issue. PSP has put together a coalition of 12 Health and Environmental groups to work together to put pressure on the ENR to create a strong bill.
It would be helpful to read PSP’s response to the DEP Report which is below.
The full Maine DEP report is below. If you do not want to read the entire 111 page report, we recommend that you start at page 94 and read the Section: Conclusions and Recommendations.
In accordance with LD 1915, this report (1/1/21) contains the Maine DEP’s findings:
Protect South Portland's submission to the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee (a committee in the state legislature) regarding the Maine DEP Report:
Comments from people with expertise:
Philip Hirschkorn, political reporter, WMTW, Channel 8:
July 4, 2020
South Portland wants tougher EPA crackdown on Sprague tank pollution
The city is preparing formal comments on a proposed settlement of an EPA lawsuit over unlicensed air emissions disputed by the company. READ MORE
March 5, 2020
OpEd: Maine communities shouldn’t have to foot the bill for oil facility closures
L.D. 2033 would require owners to close facilities in an environmentally safe and fiscally sound manner. READ MORE
Rep. Anne Carney
December 7, 2019
Maine DEP may seek better ways to measure, control oil tank emissions
A bill would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to find the best way to measure and control odors and other air pollution from petroleum storage tanks. READ MORE
November 8, 2019
Maine Voices: DEP failing to protect South Portland residents from air pollution
SOUTH PORTLAND — Local air quality issues have been in the news lately as the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a lawsuit settlement with Global Partners for air emission violations of volatile organic compounds at their South Portland terminal. READ MORE
June 1, 2020
Fuzzy Math: How Do You Calculate Emissions From a Storage Tank When The Numbers Don’t Add Up?
Along with others in South Portland, I've been fixated on the tanks for the last year, trying to figure out whether they are emitting enough of these chemicals—called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs—to pose a threat to our health.. READ MORE
February 17, 2020
Parents Become Activists in the Fight over South Portland’s Petroleum Tanks
Sometimes, grassroots activism looks obvious, with bold signs and public acts of disobedience. Sometimes, it looks like this: 14 people sitting on the carpeted floor of a sunny room in a home on Cottage Road while young kids color and eat crackers and fruit. READ MORE
December 7, 2019
They Built a Life in the Shadow of Industrial Tank Farms. Now, They’re Fighting for Answers
Maine’s toxicologist isn’t alarmed by the results of an extensive air monitoring program, but people living near South Portland’s petroleum tank farms are panicking. READ MORE
March 29, 2020
Gov. signs bill requiring owners to clean up closed oil storage tank sites
The law ensures that taxpayers won't foot the bill for cleaning up a shut down petroleum storage facility. READ MORE
February 12, 2020
Two petroleum terminal bills win strong backing from legislative panel
Two bills that would affect the operation and potential closure of petroleum terminals and storage facilities in Maine won strong endorsements rom the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. READ MORE
November 27, 2019
With Giant Oil Tanks on Its Waterfront, This City Wants to Know: What Happens When Sea Level Rises?
Residents already worried about fumes from the more than 100 giant petroleum storage tanks want to know what happens in the event of a disaster. READ MORE
October 29, 2019
'This Is Not Normal.’ New Air Monitoring Reveals Hazards in This Maine City.
SOUTH PORTLAND — The latest air quality results from around South Portland’s giant petroleum tank farms and port reveal compounds even the state’s chemist doesn’t understand. READ MORE
November 27, 2019
Air Monitoring Reveals Troubling Benzene Spikes Officials Don’t Fully Understand
Residents in South Portland, Maine, packed a meeting to find out about the noxious fumes fouling the air they breathe. The news, one official said, was bad. READ MORE
November 8, 2019
Activists Gird for a Bigger Battle Over Oil and Fumes from a Port City's Tank Farms
Residents in South Portland beat back a tar sands pipeline. Now, fearing for their children's health, they’re rallying the community for a larger fight. READ MORE
July 28, 2019
State admits it was wrong to resist federal crackdown on oil tank pollution
SOUTH PORTLAND — From 2011 to this year, the Maine DEP sided with oil companies and ignored Environmental Protection Agency attempts to rein in hazardous emissions from tanks in South Portland and Searsport. READ MORE
July 11, 2019
Unhappy South Portland residents to share grievances about oil tanks
SOUTH PORTLAND — Health concerns, financial distress and fears about environmental damage are expected to be topics July 18. READ MORE
June 7, 2019
Two South Portland Facilities Cited for Separate Violations
The City of South Portland has recently been informed by both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of Notices of Violations (NOVs) issued to Sprague Operating Resources and Global Partners, respectively, for alleged incidents at their South Portland facilities. READ MORE
City of South Portland
June 10, 2019
Fumes from Petroleum Tanks in this City Never Seem to Go Away. What Are the Kids Here Breathing?
SOUTH PORTLAND — As South Portland, Maine, embarks on an air monitoring program, day care providers, the mayor and our reporter begin the search for answers. READ MORE
June 22, 2019
When Pollution Is a Matter of Life and Death
Opinion —The E.P.A. found that a small town in Louisiana was overloaded with carcinogens. Why didn’t that mean the government had to act?. READ MORE
June 24, 2019
Fearing Toxic Fumes, an Oil Port City Takes Matters Into Its Own Hands
SOUTH PORTLAND — After a series of EPA violations came to light, neighbors in South Portland fan out with portable monitoring devices, ready to test the air they breathe. READ MORE
May 15, 2019
South Portland emissions controversy inspires bill to require local notice
SOUTH PORTLAND — Two bills would require the Maine DEP to notify municipalities when any ‘notice of violation’ has been issued for emissions infractions and to require independent, third-party testing of emissions. READ MORE
May 30, 2019
Air quality monitoring to begin in South Portland next month
SOUTH PORTLAND —The program will address community concerns raised by a federal lawsuit that accused Global Partners LP of violating the Clean Air Act at its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River. READ MORE
May 7, 2019
Senate passes bill calling for state to alert local officials about air quality violations
SOUTH PORTLAND — The measure was introduced after South Portland officials learned in March that a petroleum storage facility had been exceeding emissions limits for years. READ MORE
Joe Lawlor and Kevin Miller
April 7, 2019
EPA lawsuit over South Portland oil tanks raises neighborhood fears
SOUTH PORTLAND — A noxious odor hung over the Pleasantdale neighborhood one evening last week, undisturbed by a brisk spring wind that swirled dead leaves down the length of Elm Street. READ MORE
April 28, 2019
South Portland is ready to clear the air around petroleum facilities
SOUTH PORTLAND — A recent lawsuit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency singled out one petroleum company, Global Partners LP, for allegedly violating the federal Clean Air Act at its terminal and tank farm on the Fore River. READ MORE
May 2, 2019
EPA extends time to comment on South Portland air emissions settlement
SOUTH PORTLAND — City residents and others will have two additional months to comment on a controversial proposed settlement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Global Partners LP over alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act at its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River. READ MORE
March 25, 2019
EPA: South Portland oil storage facility violated Clean Air Act, agrees to settlement
SOUTH PORTLAND — Global Partners LP has agreed to pay fines and upgrade its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River after being charged with violating the Clean Air Act for more than a decade, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday. READ MORE
March 29, 2019
South Portland council to hold public discussion of EPA lawsuit against petroleum company
SOUTH PORTLAND — A federal pollution lawsuit against a petroleum company that caught city officials by surprise this week will get a public airing when the City Council meets Tuesday night. READ MORE
April 2, 2019
While oil company denies violation, South Portland residents air fears over pollution lawsuit
SOUTH PORTLAND — Residents expressed anger and called for action Tuesday night when the City Council took public comment on a federal air pollution lawsuit filed against a petroleum storage facility on the Fore River. READ MORE