Maine Pipe Co drops lawsuit against city law that blocked oil exports


A pipe yard. REUTERS / Jennifer Gauthier

  • Decision to drop appeal follows Biden’s administrative brief in favor of the city

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(Reuters) – A pipeline operator has dropped a long-standing lawsuit that sought to end a South Portland law banning the loading of crude oil into tankers along its waterfront to minimize pollution, preventing thus the company to continue its plans to reverse the flow of its operation to bring crude oil from Canada to the coastal city of Maine.

Portland Pipe Line Corporation (PPLC) and industrial tug group American Waterways Operators Thursday voluntarily fall their first attempt by the United States Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld the order, a move that comes two weeks after the United States filed a memorandum in favor of South Portland.

Local law effectively prevented the operator, a subsidiary of Suncor Energy Inc, from reversing the flow of its 236-mile Maine-Quebec line for maritime export from South Portland in southern Maine. The line currently transports oil from the city’s offloading facility to Suncor’s refinery in Montreal.

PPLC executive Chris Gillies told Reuters the South Portland-based company is rejecting its appeal because it “does not currently consider reversing the flow of crude oil through the Portland-Montreal pipeline system.”

Under the previous ownership, “it was thought to reverse the direction of flow of the crude oil from the line,” he said.

The company is represented by lawyers at Pierce Atwood.

South Portland Mayor Misha Pride said in a statement, “I applaud Portland Pipe Line’s decision to move them and our community forward.” City lawyers include Jonathan Ettinger of Foley Hoag.

The July 2014 ordinance of the city of 25,000 people known for its scenic lighthouses and scenic views set up a showdown with the oil industry, which called the process illegal.

City lawmakers have said the Clear Skies Ordinance will protect their waterfront and prevent air pollution associated with the storage of bulk crude oil.

In 2015, PPLC and American Waterways Operators launched a legal battle with a lawsuit accusing South Portland of violating the Dormant Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which generally prohibits states from regulating interstate commerce.

The complaint argued that the order violated the clause because its effect was to “control driving beyond the limits of South Portland”.

Portland Federal Court U.S. District Judge John Woodcock disagreed in 2018 ruling decision, concluding that “the fatal flaw in PPLC’s discrimination argument is that there can be no disparate burden on interstate or foreign competitors when there are no such competitors.”

Kristen van de Biezenbos, assistant professor of energy law at the University of Calgary, said the case illustrates the ability of cities to pass regulations and ordinances that effectively challenge energy infrastructure projects there. where there is no conflicting state or federal law.

James Coleman, professor of energy law at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, said the case was “another example of the variety of legal tools that can be used to stop new infrastructure projects. linear like pipelines “.

The case is Portland Pipe Line Corp., et al v. City of So. Portland, et al, 1st United States Court of Appeals, No. 18-2118.

For Portland Pipe Line Corp., et al: John Aromando of Pierce Atwood.

For the city of So. Portland, et al: Jonathan Ettinger of Foley Hoag.

For the interested party United States: Lewis Yelin of the United States Department of Justice.

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