In this April 23, 2021, file photo, South Portland residents who have long fought for tighter regulations of local petroleum tank emissions gathered outside an elementary school, urging support of legislation that they say would protect their neighborhoods. Credit: Nick Schroeder / BDN

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There has been great concern regarding the emissions from the 120 oil storage tanks in South Portland, especially the impact on those living in neighborhoods immediately adjacent to them who have reported alarming health effects. Multiple oil companies have been cited in recent lawsuits for exceeding their permitted levels of hazardous air pollutants. Protect South Portland and the Tank Emissions Coalition have advocated to require the six oil companies to do actual testing for toxic emissions.

Sen. Anne Carney introduced an amendment to bill LD 163 to implement perimeter monitoring for petroleum storage tank farms all over Maine. This bill has been passed by the appropriate committees, the Legislature and signed by the governor. The new law is now going through the process to clarify the rules for implementation. After a substantive rulemaking process, the head of the Board of Environmental Protection, reflecting oil company talking points, has now raised doubts about the usefulness of perimeter fenceline monitoring, a testing procedure that has been recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency specifically for South Portland terminals.

Just as we thought we would have crucial information as to whether the air in our communities is safe, the key component of LD 163 is now threatened as the proposed rule goes before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in a public hearing on Wednesday. With the efforts of many environmental and health groups, we are hopeful that Chapter 171 will be adopted and people will know what is in the air they are breathing.

Melinda Hull

South Portland