07/11/2014 02:20 EDT | Updated 07/11/2014 02:59 EDT

South Portland's Oilsands Ban On Verge Of Becoming Permanent

A runner and a Casco Bay Lines ferry pass Bug Light Friday, Oct. 19, 2001 in South Portland, Maine. A $61 million transportation bond on the Nov. 6 ballot includes funds to improve the Eastern Trail which runs from Bug Light to Kittery, and retrofit four of Casco Bay Lines ferries. (AP Photo/Joel Page)

The city that houses the third-largest oil port on the U.S.’s eastern seaboard has preliminarily voted in favour of a permanent ban on oilsands shipments.

The city council in South Portland, Maine, instituted a moratorium on oilsands product last fall, and in an initial 6-to-1 vote this week, voted to make the ban permanent.

South Portland is at the southern end of the Portland Montreal Pipeline, which has been shipping oil north to Canada since the 1940s.

Portland Pipeline Corp., which operates the U.S. side of the pipeline, had reportedly been looking at reversing the pipeline flow to bring oil from Alberta’s oilsands to South Portland, in order to bring it to overseas export markets.

According to the CBC, the company is jointly owned by a group of companies that include major oilsands players Shell, Suncor and Imperial Oil.

But during council deliberations, the pipeline company said it had no plans to import oil from Canada, the South Portland Current reported.

Council voted all the same to ban the “bulk loading of crude oil onto marine tank vessels,” essentially making it impossible for the port to export oil, while allowing it to continue imports.

Supporters of the ban pointed to the Canadian National Energy Board’s decision this spring to allow the reversal of the Line 9 pipeline to bring Alberta oil to the Maritimes. That puts Alberta oil “on New England’s doorstep,” the group Protect South Portland said.

The ban is part of the city’s Clear Skies Ordinance, which will be deliberated by by the city’s planning committee before coming to a final vote at city council on July 21, the Portland Press Herald reports.

South Portland voters rejected a proposed ban on oilsands product in a referendum last fall, narrowly defeating the measure by 200 votes. The campaign opposing it was funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute.

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