Calgary Herald

Biden backs Maine town in fight to stop reversal of Suncor oil pipeline

- ROBERT TUTTLE

A small coastal city in Maine has won the support of the Biden administra­tion in its fight against a Canadian oil pipeline in what environmen­talists see as a signal that other pipelines could face similar treatment.

In a brief filed with the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, the federal government said that a South Portland ordinance that would effectivel­y prevent crude exports by prohibitin­g the transfer of crude onto marine vessels isn't pre-empted by federal laws.

The picturesqu­e city on the Atlantic is the injection point for a seldom-used, Second World Warera oil pipeline that carries crude from the Maine coast to Montreal-area refineries. The Portland Pipe Line Corp, currently exclusivel­y owned by Suncor Energy Inc., has been trying to reverse it for more than a decade so it can export Canadian crude to foreign markets. But the city seeks to prevent the reversal amid concerns exporting crude oil would threaten waterways and air quality.

Environmen­talists say the administra­tion's filing in support of South Portland signals that the Biden Administra­tion may not stand in the way of other local authoritie­s battling oil pipelines through local ordinances.

“The Biden Administra­tion underscore­d in a new legal filing that federal law doesn't override a state or locality's decision about where an oil pipeline should be located,” the National Wildlife Federation said in a release.

In a fight against another Canadian oil company, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has tried to shut down an Enbridge Inc. pipeline that crosses the Great Lakes by revoking an easement for the line at a time that the company is seeking to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. Proponents argue Michigan doesn't have the power to shut down the pipeline.

In response to similar arguments made by the Portland Pipe Line against the South Portland ordinance, the federal government said Congress “explicitly limited” the Pipeline Safety Act's ability to pre-empt local authority.

“The Biden Administra­tion's filing lays to rest the outlandish claim Enbridge Energy and its political allies have repeatedly raised that Governor Whitmer's historic decision to shut down Line 5 was not hers to make,” Oday Salim, staff attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a release.

The Maine pipeline and Line 5 cases are “radically different,” Enbridge said in an emailed statement. “The issue in the Maine case is related to the loading of vessels, not the transport of oil through a pipeline. Line 5 continues to safely transport energy upon which U.S. and Canadian consumers, refiners and manufactur­ers depend.”

President Joe Biden entered office seeking to emphasize the fight against climate change. On his first day, he scrapped a permit issued by his predecesso­r to build the Keystone XL pipeline and he re-entered the U.S. into the Paris Climate Accord.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES FILES ?? South Portland, Maine, is trying to stop the reversal of a pipeline owned by Suncor Energy Inc. that would result in the export of crude oil. The Biden administra­tion has filed a brief stating that a local ordnance preventing exports isn't pre-empted by U.S. federal law.
GETTY IMAGES FILES South Portland, Maine, is trying to stop the reversal of a pipeline owned by Suncor Energy Inc. that would result in the export of crude oil. The Biden administra­tion has filed a brief stating that a local ordnance preventing exports isn't pre-empted by U.S. federal law.

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