The lovely seaside town of South Portland, Maine would seem far away from the growing movement opposing tar sands and related pipelines taking root across North America.  It might therefore come as a surprise to many that the town would want to ban oil exports, including tar sands from their shipyards.

However, that is exactly what has happened.  Late last Monday evening, the town council passed the binding Clear Skies Ordinance 6-1, a deliberate effort to block the export of tar sands oil through their community. It’s the latest sign that citizens across the continent are stepping up and saying no to dirty tar sands and the risky pipelines that serve the industries’ growth.

It turns out that Portland, Maine is the last stop on a little-known pipeline network that the oil industry has been hoping would serve as a major export terminal for tar sands oil via the Atlantic Ocean. Part of a scheme originally called ‘Trailbreaker’ that would see a reversed Enbridge Line 9 pipeline connect to a reversed Portland-Montreal pipeline, creating a continuous tar sands export pipeline network across eastern Canada and New England.

In spite of major public opposition, the Enbridge Line 9 reversal was granted approval last winter. That was a major disappointment, but was just one piece of a larger puzzle.  It has been widely expected that a reversal of the Portland-Montreal pipeline is in the works. South Portland’s new ordinance is a major new roadblock for that second reversal project.

What does this all mean?

Less tar sands oil running through Line 9. The refineries connected to Line 9 in Quebec cannot currently handle much tar sands diluted bitumen. Without the entire completed pipeline network that would connect down to Portland, the amount of dangerous and carbon heavy dilbit in Line 9 could be limited. This is a good thing – partly because heavy dilbit is a toxic and hard to clean up sludge, and partly because less new tar sands projects would be needed to fill the pipe.

Another victory for our climate. Thanks to the hard work of ordinary citizens, tar sands oil is quickly running out its welcome across the continent. The citizens of New England have sent a message that dirty, dangerous and carbon polluting tar sands has no place in our future.

We have seen echoes of this same movement in recent months in B.C. Alberta, Nebraska, Ontario, Quebec and beyond.  This isn’t the last time we will see citizens demanding a cleaner future.  You can join the movement here.

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