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.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If you live in an area that is impacted by the tank emissions, we encourage you to write an email to each of the members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee who will be drafting a bill. Find their contact info here. In your own words, tell them about your personal experience, hardships, negative health impacts and concerns from living near the tanks and breathing the toxic emissions they emit. They need to know what you, your children and grandparents are going through. Your voice, together with your neighbors, can make a powerful difference in the effort to get legislation passed to require measuring and treating of all emissions.
If you'd want, you can also include how you feel about the report and what you'd like them to do. Please try to send it to them during the week of Feb. 8th.
** We would appreciate it if you would copy your letter to us at email@example.com. This would be giving us permission to use your testimony in media releases and to advocate with other legislative influencers and decision makers on the tank emissions issue.
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: