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The U.S. Administration is supporting a city in Maine that has prohibited storage and handling of crude oil that would be shipped via a pipeline from Canada in a court brief that environmentalists hope would be similar to how the federal government could react to the Enbridge-Michigan saga.
The city of South Portland, Maine, has issued an ordinance that bans the handling and storage of crude that would be imported via a pipeline project, Portland Pipe Line Corporation, operated by Suncor. The Canada-based company has sought to reverse the flow on the Portland-Montreal pipeline to allow exports of Canadian oil to the United States. The pipeline hasn’t been fully used in years, although it has been in operation since 1941.
Now the city of South Portland in Maine banned storage and handling of crude that would be imported from Canada and loaded onto marine vessels for transportation and prohibited construction that would enable such loading.
In the brief to the U.S. court of appeals for the First Circuit, the U.S. Administration said that the Maine town’s ordinance is not being pre-empted by federal law regulating pipeline safety, the Pipeline Safety Act.
“Congress “explicitly limited” the statute’s preemption provision by leaving to the states the authority “to prescribe the location or routing of a pipeline facility,” the Biden Administration said in the brief, supporting South Portland as appellees against the Portland Pipe Line Corporation.
After President Joe Biden effectively forced TC Energy to cancel the Keystone XL project by revoking a presidential permit for the pipeline in the U.S., the Administration is now siding with a party opposing another—albeit much smaller—pipeline to import Canadian oil.
Environmentalists hope that the arguments in the case with the Maine Pipeline could mean that the Administration would side with states in other similar cases, most notably the Enbridge-Michigan dispute over Line 5.
“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,” said Oday Salim, staff attorney for the National Wildlife Federation.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com