SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- South Portland firefighters have joined in on the debate over an ordinance that would prevent construction needed for pumping tar sands oil from Canada to Casco Bay.
Voter will decide on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, or WPO, on November 5th, but as that date inches closer the conversation heats up.
About a thousand career firefighters in Maine say they're against the ordinance, because the wording would have detrimental impacts on the waterfront.
The ordinance reads in part: "there shall be no enlargement or expansion of existing petroleum storage tank farms and accessory piers, pumping and distribution facilities, or facilities for the storing and handling of petroleum and/or petroleum products... "Expansion" as used in this section includes, but is not limited to, construction, reconstruction or alteration of any existing facility to change the function or capacity of such facilities; construction of any
new combustion units, stacks, vapor recovery systems, equipment, structure, or machinery for transportation or storage of petroleum, including any pumping, distribution or other facility for loading
tankers or other ships instead of unloading ships."
Union members say that wording leaves the ordinance wide open for companies to be punished for making safety upgrades or improvements.
Those for the ordinance, like members of the group Protect South Portland, say these firefighters are misinformed and that it wouldn't make sense to not allow safety upgrades or improvements along the waterfront.
Some members of Protect South Portland accused the union members of supporting Portland Montreal Pipe Line because the company has purchased equipment for the fire department.
South Portland's fire department admits to receiving donations from Portland Montreal Pipe Line in the years the company has been in the city, including 2 fire trucks, but say other businesses have donated to them as well.
Mike Williams, the second district Vice President of Professional Firefighters of Maine, which is a statewide union, says it's not unusual for businesses to donate to their local departments, especially in a case where firefighters may have to respond to hazardous calls there. Places like The Maine Mall and Fairchild Semiconductor also donate, and firefighters spend a certain amount of hours training with staff there in case a disaster happens. He says those donations came well before the tar sands debate and have no impact on their choice to vote against the ordinance.
In the meantime, Portland Montreal Pipe Line maintains that they have no plans to construct a tar sands oil facility in South Portland.