Mary-Jane Ferrier, RSCJ, is deeply committed to protecting the environment, especially in her corner of the world, South Portland, Maine. She is a long-time member of citizens-action group, Protect South Portland, which was formed to stop ExxonMobil from turning South Portland into a major export facility for Canadian tar sands oil. On Monday, July 21, the South Portland City Council voted to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance to protect the city from a tar sands crude oil terminal. This victory for the environment is being lauded as historic and is attracting quite a bit of news coverage.
Prior to an initial vote earlier in the month, in her role as spokesperson for Protect South Portland, Sister Ferrier spent some time with a reporter for the Voice of Russia radio station. The resulting inteview provides both background on the tar sands issue and an overview of Protect South Portland's efforts. Visit the Voice of Russia site to listen to the interview.
She noted, "The people I work with are an incredibly gifted group. Each one makes an enormous contribution and we work well together. Supporting us are other volunteers who number in the hundreds and a database of almost four thousand who signed the original petition to ban tar sands. It takes a village."
From a news release from Protect South Portland
Ordinance Prohibits Terminal to Load Tar Sands, Crude onto Tankers
In an historic vote, the South Portland City Council tonight voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance to protect the city from a tar sands crude oil terminal. The city developed the ordinance after Protect South Portland’s neighbor-to-neighbor campaign educated and mobilized the community against tar sands over the last year and a half. More than 325 supporters wearing sky-blue packed the Community Center, with just a handful of opponents in attendance.
“We may be a small city, but, boy, we’ve done a big thing tonight! The Clear Skies Ordinance protects our air, our coast, and our community,” said Mary-Jane Ferrier, spokesperson for Protect South Portland. “We are absolutely thrilled, relieved, and exhausted. Of course, we know it may not be over yet, and we’re committed to defend this victory from oil industry attacks.”
The Clear Skies Ordinance prohibits the bulk loading of tar sands onto tankers on the waterfront and forbids the construction of infrastructure for that purpose. Bulk loading of tar sands would increase air pollution, including volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants, on the waterfront and surrounding the tanks next to schools and throughout the community. Two 70-foot tall combustion smokestacks on the pier next to Bug Light, such as those previously permitted by the city and state for bulk loading of tar sands, would harm scenic views and property values.
“What’s really amazing about this whole process is how much it has brought the community together,” said Crystal Goodrich, a volunteer with Protect South Portland. “So many people have come together to fight for the future of our city. Hundreds of people have volunteered countless hours, talking to neighbors, collecting petitions, making phone calls, and attending meeting after meeting. We also had the assistance of Maine environmental groups, and their expertise was invaluable. We couldn’t have done this without them.”
South Portland has been at the center of a battle over tar sands for more than a year, in reaction to the possibility of tar sands coming to the port city from Canada, as has been discussed by the oil industry. South Portland is the only U.S. city on the East Coast with a deep-water port and that is connected to a crude oil pipeline. The American Petroleum Institute and its allies spent $750,000 last fall to narrowly defeat a citizen’s initiative to block the tar sands terminal by attacking it as overly broad.
“Tonight citizens working to protect their community prevailed over Big Oil. It is a true David versus Goliath victory,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “The oil industry is not invincible, and the exploitation of tar sands is not inevitable. From Nebraska to Maine, citizens are standing up, and powerfully so, to protect their communities—and we are winning. We’re hopeful that South Portland’s action will empower other communities threatened by new tar sands infrastructure to protect themselves."