07/22/2014 07:58 EDT | Updated 09/21/2014 05:59 EDT

South Portland votes against crude oil export

The City of South Portland, Maine has voted to block oil companies from using the city’s port to export crude bitumen.

South Portland is a key stop in Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal project, which would send Alberta crude eastward, to be refined in Quebec and Maine.

That oil would then be sent south via the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, to be loaded onto tankers and exported from South Portland's port.

The Portland-Montreal Pipe Line is a subsidiary of the Canadian parent company that is owned by three companies involved in the Alberta oilsands: Shell, Suncor and Imperial Oil.

Now the Line 9 reversal plan is facing opposition from the City of South Portland.

After a long debate on Monday evening, South Portland councillors voted to amend a zoning bylaw to prohibit the bulk loading of crude oil onto marine tank vessels within the city and its port.

South Portland councillors who voted in favour of the amendment said they are concerned about the environment — especially air pollution and the impact a spill would have on the city's drinking water.

"This pipeline does pass through the major watershed of the principle drinking water source of southern Maine," said South Portland Mayor Gerard Jalbert.

Equiterre's Steven Guilbeault is applauding the decision.

"I think it's a good news for Montreal. I think it means that there are less chances we will be receiving tar sands here."

Now that councillors have made their decision, the city's administration is preparing for what it expects will be a long battle in the courts with oil companies.

Representatives from the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line declined requests for an interview.