Urges City of South Portland to Educate Voters Before Election

September 17, 2013 Augusta, Maine- South Portland Mayor Tom Blake supports a new regulation, known as the so-called Waterfront Protection Ordinance (WPO), which will have damaging effects on the fuel and construction industries in Maine. “When I called Mayor Blake to ask his opinion of the ordinance, he told me that his vision includes replacement of petroleum facilities with wind farms and biomass plants on the waterfront of South Portland. Not only does this strike me as impractical and shortsighted, but it is beyond my understanding how elected leaders believe tax paying businesses should change their business model at their request,” said Associated General Contractors of Maine’s Chief Executive Officer Matthew Marks.

When asked if the city would create a fact sheet in advance of the election to inform voters of the full impact of the WPO, Mayor Blake said that would most likely happen after the election, as it will be open to interpretation.

AGC Maine insists the city must act before the election, not after. “We are concerned voters will believe this is about tar sands. This ordinance has nothing to do with tar sands, and I think that supporters are intentionally and negligently framing the discussion as such. We need to make sure our working ports and fuel terminals in Maine continue to exist, as they are critical to our survival during the cold Maine winters. Suggesting a local business, which has operated safely in the city for over 70 years, and has won numerous safety awards as recent as last year, should change their business model is absurd. This type of overbroad and shortsighted ordinance will send a scary message to other business owners and prospective companies looking to bring their business to our State. At the very least, a thorough impact study should be available prior to the election in order to ensure a well-informed electorate shows up at the polls in November” said Matthew Marks.

Associated General Contractors of Maine represents local construction workers who provide maintenance and construction services to petroleum facilities and other businesses on the waterfront that will be affected by this extremely harmful ordinance. The ordinance would limit the ability for expansion and upgrades, adding to the already strained construction industry. “This isn’t about tar sands. The ordinance and Mayor Blake’s comments themselves are very telling- this will be harmful to anyone who needs oil or gasoline. We all want more efficient energy, but to place a greater burden on the people who are already struggling to heat their homes or put gas in their vehicles is foolish,” stated Marks.

The construction industry has been hit very hard since 2006, and while we are beginning to see slight economic recovery, the process is slow and concerning. This year, even during the peak summer construction season, the industry still has over 5,500 Mainers who are unemployed. “This ordinance is a job killer. Your neighbors and family who work at the fuel terminals or on the waterfront must demand answers from city leaders about the impacts of the WPO. It would be reckless, to say the least, to let this play out in a courtroom after the election. I believe this is a direct insult to the people who get up late at night in cold weather to maintain port facilities and make sure the ships that provide heat to our homes and food and goods to our stores are able to deliver products. If the city leaders allow this to be on the ballot without commenting on the potentially devastating impacts along the waterfront, it would be grossly negligent and totally neglectful of their duties to the people of South Portland and the State of Maine,” said Marks.

The impacts of the WPO would reach far beyond the city borders in a state where 70% of residents still require home heating oil to stay warm. “I believe everyone agrees that there is a need to increase diversity in our energy portfolio, but this extreme approach of running oil terminals out of town is dangerous and costly. We agree with Mayor Blake’s assessment that the ordinance, as written, may be open to interpretation, but feel very strongly that the city should make that interpretation prior to the election,” Marks added.

Chartered in 1951, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Maine is the state’s largest construction industry trade association. The Association maintains an office in Augusta and has more than 200 members statewide. Member companies include general contractors, sub-contractors, and service and supply providers. For more information visit www.agcmaine.org.