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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.

Read more about the health risks of VOCs>>

Is there something wrong in the Air in South Portland? by Kathryn Miles, Boston Globe Magazine, June 20, 2021. Residents in So. Portland, ME can smell the emissions from giant petroleum storage tanks in their neighborhoods. Are they in danger?


Petrochemicals Are Killing Us, a New Report Warns in the New England Journal of Medicine by Liza Gross, Inside Climate New, March 18, 2024. It’s well known that fossil fuels are the primary driver of climate change. A dirty secret is that they’re also the source of toxic chemicals linked to rising rates of chronic and deadly diseases.

EPA action

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 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 were posted and open to the public. CAAC’s final report was released on February 2023. 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 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 testing. The Maine DEP 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 depends solely on formulas developed by the American Petroleum Institute. These formulas have been deemed acceptable in the report despite that US EPA found that the oil companies using this method were grossly underestimating their emissions with no accountability.


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 put together a coalition of 12 health advocacy and environmental organizations to work together to advocate with the ENR to pass a stronger bill.


It would be helpful to read PSP’s response to the DEP Report. 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.

Reference Documents

In accordance with LD 1915, this report (1/1/21) contains the Maine DEP’s findings:

ME DEP Report PDF, 111 pages

Protect South Portland's submission to the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee (a committee in the state legislature) regarding the Maine DEP Report:

PSP's Submission to ENR PDF, 3 pages

Comments from people with expertise:

David Falatko's Comments 

Tom Mikulka's Comments


2021- 2022


LD163 was signed into law by Governor Mills on June 22, 2021.


After diligent advocating for many months by Anne Carney, PSP, and the Tank Coalition of Maine before the BEP, the ENR, and the State Legislature, LD 163 was signed by Governor Mills on June 22, 2021.

Senator Anne Carney’s bill LD163 with amendments includes fence line monitoring around the perimeter of the above-ground oil tanks and testing twice a year on heated tanks while they are in service. This is a big step forward for South Portland, Portland, and the entire state. These tanks have never been monitored for actual emissions of toxic chemicals.


Instead, a formula established by the American Petroleum Institute has been used to calculate emissions from what gets put into the tanks. This formula, AP-42, has been acknowledged to be widely unreliable.


In South Portland alone, six tank farm facilities combined, are permitted to emit almost 600 tons of volatile organic compounds (which turn into ozone) and 104 tons of hazardous air pollutants per year into the air into densely populated neighborhoods with homes, schools, and daycares nearby. The chemicals in the emissions are known to cause cancer, respiratory illnesses (asthma), and neurological problems for fetuses and developing children.


We thank Senator Carney and Representatives Morales and Millett for their tireless work in helping PSP and the Tank Emissions Coalition to successfully pass this bill.


Of most importance, PSP hoped that LD163 with amendment and rulemaking would:


  1. Require oil tank storage facilities to do actual testing of tank emissions twice a year on heated tanks.

  2. Require fenceline monitoring on the perimeter of tank farm facilities to measure the hazardous air pollutant emissions that are going beyond the facility into the surrounding community.





Once a bill is passed into law, Rulemaking determines the wording and substance of the rules to enforce that law. It is crucial that strict and comprehensive rules and regulations be carefully worded in order to get the most comprehensive data from the mandated testing and monitoring. Timing and careful procedures are also important to protecting our community’s health.


The rules, Chapters 170 and 171, for LD163 were drafted and reviewed by the Board of Environmental Protection, BEP. There was a hearing before the BEP, on February 3, 2022. When the rules pass the BEP, they will go to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, ENR, for approval. The rules then needed to be approved by the House and Senate. Our goal is to ensure the installation of the strictest rules possible for the state of Maine’s oil storage tanks.


The more data we have in quarterly reporting the more we are able to protect our community. We want to assert that timing and best practice procedures are also very important.


These are additions we requested to be included in Chapters 107 and 171:


  • Petroleum distillates and residual oils should to be added to the list of potential pollutants to be controlled when removing organic vapors for degassing.

  • In addition to Benzene three other toxic hazardous air pollutants (HAP’s) should be monitored for a nominal additional cost. It is important that we know the amounts of toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes along with benzene which form the components of BTEX, all of which may be considered carcinogens.

  • To determine the source of emissions, the wind direction as well as temperature and atmospheric pressures should be documented at the time of the testing.

  • The proposed time frames for implementing fence line testing are excessive and should be shortened. The time frame allowed for implementing fenceline monitoring should be reduced from 18 months to 9 months.

  • We need transparency. All data and analysis must be reported quarterly to the DEP, the affected municipalities, and the public.




LD71 passed as an emergency measure. It passed 114 to 1 in the Maine House of Representatives and it passed in the Maine Senate 26 to 6! Both votes got over the 2/3 required for an emergency measure that requires more immediate implementation.


This means that fenceline monitoring around all tank farms in Maine and twice-a-year testing of all heated tanks will begin implementation by August 2024.  These requirements will be paid for by the oil companies.


We are very appreciative of all the work and commitment the City Council, city staff and the CAAC have brought to the issue of the tank emissions and very grateful to the overwhelming support of State Legislators. This has been a challenging and important issue calling for concerted and continuous efforts.


South Portland and the State of Maine have moved the needle towards increased accountability and transparency on the part of the oil industry for their impacts on the communities surrounding their industrial infrastructure.




We still don't have DEP monitors closer to the tank farms which has been asked for over the course of the CAAC's existence. The CAAC also had been asking for direct vent testing during delivery. We also continue to need  information about the schedule of petroleum deliveries, which is connected to the bursts when the tanks are being filled from the ships. The bursts are recurrent intermittent high level emissions that last 12-24 hours. We  know that  in 2017 there were 200 of these deliveries. The focus of monitoring these past years has been on average annual emissions in areas that are not close to the tanks. This does not answer the central question that needs to be answered.

What is the  exposure to high levels of toxic emissions in the bursts for the thousands of South Portland residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the tank farms? We still need to know.


For the most recent information see Home Page


MEDIA COVERAGE emissions-moves-to-augusta/ south-portland-fuel-tank-emissions-earns-committee- endorsement/

APRIL 23 - We held a successful rally to inform and activate the public about the toxic fumes being emitted into our air near schools something-wrong-with-air-south-portland-maine/


Fumes in South Portland Sabrina Shankman via Inside Climate News Series, 2019-2020 neighbords-tank-fumes-epa-harmful-chemicals


State admits it was wrong to resist federal crackdown on oil tank pollution Kelly Bouchard via Portland Press Herald, July 2019

Toxic Fumes in the West End Espahbad Dodd via The West End News, November 2020


‘Is our air safe to breathe?’ Robert Lewis-Nash via Portland Phoenix, December 2020


SoPo residents seek tighter regulations, accountability for oil tank emissions Emily Weyrauch via Maine Beacon, January 2021


Philip Hirschkorn, political reporter, WMTW, Channel 8:


January 5, 2021: ME DEP issues report on South Portland oil storage tanks


January 13, 2021: So Po residents press ME environmental regulators on oil storage tank emissions testing remediation


January 14, 2021: South Portland/Portland respond to air quality concerns surrounding oil storage tanks https:// neighbords- tank-fumes-epa-harmful-chemicals/ emissions-moves-to-augusta/ south-portland-fuel-tank-emissions-earns-committee- endorsement/


APRIL 23 - We held a successful rally to inform and activate the public about the toxic fumes being emitted into our air near schools. If you were unable to be there you can watch a video of the event.


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

David Falatko


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Dennis Hoey


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Krysteana Scribner

Screen Shot 2019-07-29 at 4.30.29 PM.png

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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Sharon Lerner


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

Sabrina Shankman


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

Kevin Miller


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

Gilligan Graham


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Kelley Bouchard


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

Kelley Bouchard

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