A new bill aims to prevent Casco Bay oil spills

Peter Linehan | Flickr

Peter Linehan | Flickr

A Portland lawmaker wants to stop ships from transferring heavy fuel in Maine waters without protective devices meant to block the spread of oil in the case of a spill.

Following BDN Portland reports that ships transferring fuel in Casco Bay generally don’t take these precautions, and that no government agency tracks the practice, Rep. Ben Chipman, a Democrat, has proposed a bill to bring regulatory oversight to ship-to-ship fueling.

The bill would require that ships transferring oil deploy the floating rings, known as booms, and inform the United States Coast Guard before they begin pumping the syrupy oil that fuels many large ships.

Ship-to-ship fuel transfers are subject to federal regulation and Coast Guard records dating back to 2010 do not show any spills from them in Casco Bay. But notifying the federal agency that fuel is being moved became standard practice off San Francisco after a 2009 bunkering spill there.  

“An Act To Prevent Oil Spills in Casco Bay” will receive its first reading next week before being sent to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources for review and revision. It’s early in the lawmaking process but Chipman was optimistic about the bill, which also has Republican support, including that of committee chair Sen. Thomas B. Saviello of Franklin.

Waterfront advocates, however, think that the bill as written is unlikely to solve the problem and could lead to confusion.

“It’s full of holes,” said Daniel Milligan, the retired captain and pollution safety advisor with ExxonMobil, who raised the issue last summer. The bill says that booms don’t need to be used when it creates “personnel safety” issues and when weather makes it difficult or dangerous. It is unclear who would make those determinations.

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca suggested revising the bill in consultation with Maine Department of Environmental Protection. She also noted that bunkering is rare off Portland. The practice has likely declined because fewer tankers are coming to be filled at the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line.

The drop in tankers has also seen the local spill-response capacity reduced: a large pollution control vessel long stationed in the harbor was taken out of service last year. — Jake Bleiberg

Council scraps plan to dedicate Franklin St. to MLK Jr. — A City Council subcommittee spiked a proposal to rename Franklin Street after Martin Luther King Jr. when it got strong pushback from residents at a meeting last night, the Press Herald reports. At issue is the history of the roadway, which was built after the city tore down 130 houses, Dennis Hoey reported:

Several people, including a former resident of the Bayside neighborhood that was demolished in the late 1960s, said it would be inappropriate to rename the street after the slain civil rights activist because so many families were dislocated by the project. …

“To remove the last vestige of this neighborhood and what it used to be would be the final slap in the face for those of us who lived through it,” Al Piteau said.

Which brings up this point from PPH reporter Randy Billings:

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Here’s the story to which he’s referring.

Cara Stadler announces new chef for second Portland restaurant — There may be a cook shortage in the state, but some restaurateurs don’t seem to be in a jam. Cara Stadler of Bao Bao Dumpling House just announced that Ian Driscoll, most recently of Central Provisions, will cook alongside her when her new wine restaurant Lio opens this summer on Spring Street.

Another Central Prov alum, Patrick McDonald, has been tapped as bar director for all three of the James Beard nominee’s operations, including Tao Yuan in Brunswick. Impressive lineup. — Kathleen Pierce

Democrats’ split could spur minimum wage change for Maine restaurant servers —  Michael Shepherd reports:

Eight Democrats in the Maine Legislature are supporting proposals to restore the tipped minimum wage for servers phased out by a 2016 minimum wage referendum, drawing ire from progressives who advocated for it.

They may hold the critical votes needed in a closely divided Legislature to unravel the portion of the new law affecting tipped workers. Backed by many in Maine’s restaurant industry, virtually all Republicans — including Gov. Paul LePage — favor allowing a lower minimum wage for tipped workers.

Angus King holding a ‘listening session’ in Portland on Trump’s Supreme Court pick — The idea is to hear constituents’ questions about President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, with whom King met today.

Tweet of the day

From Jeff Bervovici:

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The Big Idea

‘A Look at One Maine Refugee’s Vetting Process’We’ve written before about the stringent policies in place to screen refugees. Here, Maine Public shows how that works in practice, with one man’s story.

“Where you are from, where exactly you ran from and what are the causes that made you run? From what reason did you run from where you were for where you ran, and who were you living with, what happened to them, where are they, how old are you, in what time, what date, what hour of the day that the circumstances that happened, and all that. I mean there are a lot of questions, over and over again,” he says.

Charles says he was interviewed by the U.N. three times in the first nine months. They took fingerprints and did medical checks as well, a process repeated at least once a year, for eight years. It wasn’t until 2014 that the High Commission for Refugees decided to recommend him and his relatives for resettlement.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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