The city of South Portland, Maine, has voted to block oil companies from using the city’s port to export crude bitumen from Alberta.

After a long debate on Monday evening, South Portland councillors voted to amend a zoning bylaw to prohibit the bulk loading of crude oil onto marine tank vessels within the city and its port.

South portland port

Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal project would send Alberta crude eastward, to be refined in Quebec and loaded onto tankers and exported from the port in South Portland, Maine. (CBC)

Enbridge's Line 9 reversal project, which would send Alberta crude eastward to be refined at the Suncor refinery in Montreal, does not officially include plans for the South Portland region. 

But some members of the South Portland administration are concerned that Alberta crude could eventually make its way south, to be loaded onto tankers and exported from the city's port.

Enbridge's manager of business communications, Graham White, said there are no plans for the South Portland region.

"We have no association with this pipeline or company and no plans, proposals or projects in the region. There is absolutely no effect whatsoever on Line 9," he stated in an email.

Concerns about drinking water, air pollution

Councillors in the city of South Portland aren't taking chances. 

They say they're concerned there could be a push to reverse the flow of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, a subsidiary of the Canadian parent company that is owned by three companies involved in the Alberta oilsands: Shell, Suncor and Imperial Oil.

Elected officials say they are concerned about the environment — especially air pollution and the impact a spill would have on the city's drinking water.

"This pipeline does pass through the major watershed of the principal drinking water source of southern Maine," said South Portland Mayor Gerard Jalbert.

Equiterre's Steven Guilbeault is applauding the decision.

"I think it's a good news for Montreal. I think it means that there are less chances we will be receiving tar sands here."

Now that councillors have made their decision, the city's administration is preparing for what it expects will be a long battle in the courts with oil companies.

Representatives from the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line declined requests for an interview.