Apr. 24—SOUTH PORTLAND — Protect South Portland members held a rally outside Kaler Elementary School on Friday afternoon, calling for greater regulation of air pollution from more than 100 massive petroleum storage tanks located near homes, schools and businesses throughout the city's waterfront neighborhoods.
With Portland Pipe Line Corp. tanks towering in the background, rally participants held signs saying "No Toxic Emissions Where Children Play" and "Stop Cancer Fumes." Federal and state officials have increased scrutiny of tank emissions in recent years, including tank farms here operated by Global Partners and Sprague Resources, but critics say little has really changed.
Among the speakers was Pamela Cragin, who said she lives in the city's "sacrifice zone," where the tanks have stood for decades. She blamed petroleum companies for committing "pollution crimes."
"We're asking them to stop the cancer fumes," said Cragin, who believes tank emissions contributed to illnesses among her family members.
Roberta Zuckerman noted that current federal and state regulations allow petroleum companies to emit certain amounts of air pollution from storage tanks, including cancer-causing benzene. They also self-report emission levels using a formula developed by the petroleum industry that has been widely disputed, most notably by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
"I consider that the fox guarding the hen house," Zuckerman said.
Rachel Burger, a founder of Protect South Portland, urged community members to attend a State House hearing May 3 to support L.D. 1532, a bill that would create stricter requirements for air emission licenses and renewals. The legislation will be reviewed at 9 a.m. before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Sponsored by Rep. Victoria Morales, D-South Portland, the bill also would create new civil penalties for violations of air emission standards and require any penalties recovered to be transferred to municipalities where violations occurred. And it would prohibit the Maine Department of Environmental Protection from granting licenses when certain requirements haven't been met.
"Thank you for caring about the need for clean air," Burger said.