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Environment and Outdoors

State environmental board hears testimony on a new law aimed at regulating petroleum storage tank emissions

Biden Climate Summit
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
A man walks on an athletic track in the shadow of massive oil tanks owned by the Portland Pipe Line Corp., Thursday, April 22, 2021, in South Portland, Maine. President Joe Biden committed the United States to cutting emissions by up to 52% by 2030 at a virtual Earth Day summit.

The state Board of Environmental Protection took testimony Thursday on the implementation of a new law that aims to better regulate emissions from big petroleum storage tanks, like the dozens located in South Portland.

The law requires specific actions, such as placing floating roofs on new tanks to reduce evaporation and emissions, monthly visual inspections, and continuous, third-party monitoring for potentially-harmful emissions at a facility's fence-line.

Activists like Bruce Taylor, who pushed for the requirements, called on the board to expand the list of substances that should be monitored, to require collection of wind data at the sites, and to shorten the amount of time companies will be allowed to set up fence-line monitoring programs.

"This rule allows for another possible 18 months of unevaluated emissions into the community, or this comes out to about nearly four years since the community discussed 'is this air safe to breathe?'" Taylor said. "This delay further engenders needles distrust of protection an deregulation by the state of Maine."

Representatives of petroleum product, storage and transport companies, including asphalt makers, said the new requirements will make road maintenance and construction more expensive, and add to the cost of driving gasoline-powered vehicles.

There was general acknowledgment, though, that the law was written with unusual specificity and may allow little wiggle room when the final rules are adopted.