Description: Pipeline operator's challenge to coastal city's local law prohibiting the loading of oil on tankers.
Portland Pipe Line Corp. v. City of South Portland
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 12/29/2017 Order Download City's motion for summary judgment granted in part and denied in part and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment denied. Maine Federal Court Rejected Most Claims in Pipeline Operator’s Challenge to City’s Ban on Loading Crude Oil on Tankers; Dormant Commerce Claim Can Proceed. A federal district court in Maine ruled for the City of South Portland on all but one claim brought by a pipeline operator to challenge the City’s “Clear Skies” ordinance, which prohibits loading crude oil on tankers in South Portland harbor. The pipeline operator currently pumps oil from South Portland to Montreal to bring the oil to refineries but asserted that it had plans to reverse the flow of oil. The pipeline operator said the City’s prohibition on loading crude oil on tankers would prevent it from implementing those plans. While the Clear Skies ordinance’s legislative findings focused on local air quality and land use impacts, City Council members also cited the need to take local action to address climate change and the ordinance’s potential effects on “the health and safety of other global residents.” The court ruled that the prohibition on loading crude oil was not preempted by the Pipeline Safety Act (because the prohibition was not a safety standard), by the Port and Waterways Safety Act, or by maritime law. The court also found that the prohibition did not impermissibly intrude on the federal government’s federal affairs power. In addition, the court rejected a class-of-one equal protection claim and a claim that the ordinance violated the Due Process clause based on the void-for-vagueness doctrine. The court also concluded that the City could rationally have concluded that the ordinance was consistent with its comprehensive plan and ruled that Maine’s Oil Discharge Prevention Law did not preempt the ordinance. The court concluded, however, that genuine disputes of material fact regarding the ordinance’s purpose and practical effects on interstate and foreign commerce prevented summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ dormant Commerce Clause claim.