NGL withdraws application for propane storage depot in South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — After more than a year of trying to gain approval for a liquefied petroleum gas storage depot at Rigby Rail Yard, NGL Supply Terminal Co. Thursday announced it will withdraw its application.

“Despite a year-long, good-faith effort by the company to address all legitimate safety concerns and to comply with the city’s existing and prospective regulations, it has become apparent that some in city government are determined to oppose the project by any means possible and under any circumstances,” Kevin Fitzgerald, regional operations manager for NGL Energy Partners, said in a press release.

The announcement came four days before the City Council is slated to hold a first reading of amendments to the city’s fire code — changes that were drafted in response to NGL’s application, as a means to tighten the regulation of commercial propane and prohibit NGL’s proposed use.

NGL submitted its application in January 2015, initially proposing six 60,000-gallon above-ground storage tanks to replace the company’s existing facility on West Commercial Street in Portland. That proposal was reduced to one 24,000-gallon above-ground tank in a revised application submitted to the Planning and Development department last September.

The application process was tumultuous and controversial, with opposition from people who live near the rail yard and others who expressed concerns about the project’s safety and necessity.

Pat Doucette, the city’s code enforcement officer, who first said NGL’s proposed use was allowed under city zoning ordinances, reversed her opinion nearly a year later.

City Councilor Brad Fox was openly criticized late last year for privately attempting to convince fellow councilors to oppose the application, often via his personal email instead of his city-provided account. The council attempted to pass a moratorium that would have effectively stopped NGL’s application process for six months, but it failed to get a majority vote. And both the Portland Regional Chamber and the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce criticized the council for not being fair to NGL in the application process.

Following the company’s announcement Thursday, Chris Hall, chief executive of the Portland Regional Chamber, said the group is “very sad to see the application withdrawn.”

“We were very concerned about the fairness of the process. We can’t help but see this result as throwing that into question,” Hall said. “We want South Portland to prosper, to grow and for the people to have the community they want, but we’re worried when folks can’t complete an application process.”

Hall said he is “concerned about the message” this process will send to other developers and investors about the city’s attitude toward business investment.

“It doesn’t help other investors,” he said. “It discourages them. I hope the City Council can make some affirmative steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again. (The city) needs to renew its commitment to fair process and let (the application) either succeed or fail on its merits.”

But Fox was very happy to hear the news. “To me, it’s an incredible thing,” he said Thursday.

“Obviously this has been a year long struggle for so many people to try to keep this facility from being built next to people’s houses,” Fox said. “We still have that concern and we still need to get the fire code safety ordinance passed Monday night to make sure (Rigby Rail Yard operator Pan Am Railways) doesn’t try to do the same thing.”

Fox said he doesn’t see NGL’s decision as an example of the city unfairly driving businesses away. “We just didn’t feel their location was a wise choice,” he said.

With the South Portland proposal off the table, Fitzgerald said in the NGL press release, “we will increase our supplies at other regional terminals, including a site in Auburn for the short term, while exploring the development of a new facility at an alternate location in Maine.

“We are confident that another Maine community will value the jobs, financial investment, tax revenues and energy security our terminal will provide.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

s-sp-rigby-NGL-crop-092515

A rendering of NGL Supply Terminal Co.’s proposed propane storage facility at Rigby Rail Yard in South Portland. The company withdrew its application on Thursday, March 17.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.
  • RIchard M

    South Portland is going downhill fast. Liberals from Mass moving up here because they overcrowded and destroyed their own state are poisoning our state. Hard working men and woman will continue to lose their middle class jobs to Canada and other ports because the liberal newcomers come here and expect everything to look like they do in postcards. If an oil company wants to create jobs and boost economy by providing middle class jobs and taxes, they won’t be coming to South Portland anymore.

    • MCHaye

      South Portland already has more oil companies than any other city or town in Northern New England. Why is it such a crisis if we don’t have even more of them? I’m fine with keeping the ones we have but why pile on more? Don’t other Maine towns deserve a shot at attracting some new jobs and new tax revenue?

      • EABeem

        Exactly. And what looks like downhill to some looks like uphill to others. Hard to sink lower than tanks farms, malls and neglected schools. South Portland is making a comeback to be the All American City it hasn’t been since the 1960s.

        • pebble

          That’s a serious swipe at South Portland. How generous.

          • EABeem

            SP laid down and let itself be overrun by commerce, which did its bottom line and its schools no good. Now it is taking it future into its own hands, having realized that all that business development did not improve the local economy or environment one bit.

          • pebble

            Let’s hear it from EABeem, another out-of-touch-out-of-towner.

          • EABeem

            I am, in fact, a respected authority on all things SoPo. The city was vibrant in 1960s, got malled in the 1970s and 1980s, and is now making a comeback despite the best efforts of those who let the city got to pot.

        • SoPort

          South Portland does well supporting its schools at 44.7 mil for 3102 students equaling over 14k per student, in fact, just over the state average and well above the national. Our school are far from neglected. I think that you need to look at education as more then what’s spent. No doubt South Portland has some challenges. One of the biggest is its reputation of driving out business. We are certainly NOT going to be able to rebuild our middle schools if we have no tax base to support them. What is going to replace the tax dollars of Portland Pipeline Martins point? NGL? I am very disappointed that you are disrespecting South Portland so out of hand

          • EABeem

            My comment about the schools refers to the fact that school facilities, SPHS in particular, were allowed to deteriorate for decades before citizens finally approved funds to renovate and modernize them. The same has been true in Freeport. Both SP and Freeport have all the commercial development other towns and cities say they want, but it obviously didn’t help either community invest in its schools.

          • MCHaye

            You mentioned Martin’s Point. They’re a nonprofit. How much taxes do they contribute?

            Unless another nonprofit moves into that location, it’s nearly certain that whoever takes over that building will pay more taxes than Martin’s Point, a nonprofit, paid.

          • beachmom H

            They pay property taxes. They employ people. Those people spend money locally.
            Those people live locally for the most part.
            All money coming to the city.

          • MCHaye

            As is true of whatever business takes over that building. Your point?

          • beachmom H

            But you tried to make a point that Martin’s Point would not be paying taxes. Which is false. Now Scarborough gets them.

          • MCHaye

            Once again you’re reading things into my posts that simply aren’t there.

          • beachmom H

            Then what was meant when you said Martin’s Point is a nonprofit and how much in taxes do they pay? I must of misunderstood the finer points of that comment.

          • MCHaye

            Sometimes a question is just a question. I wasn’t being snarky.

  • beachmom H

    The tank farms have been here since WWII.
    So what they aren’t pretty. We’re used to them. If you don’t like them, don’t live here.
    They pay big taxes and keep us running.

    What is being proposed to replace that tax money?
    And the money that will be lost due to the other businesses that make money from them and their employees.

    As far as the schools not being good.
    The City Council allows the School Board to throw money at the schools every year. We pay enough per student to send all of them to private schools.
    That just proves that throwing money at schools does no good.

    The energy industry keeps our tax base broad and varied.

    But because they don’t fit into the vision of the out of towners and left wing ecoborg, they shall not be allowed to operate.
    What other businesses and industries are these agenda driven City councilors going to drive out of town?

    • EABeem

      The 24-inch Portland-Montreal Pipeline was constructed in 1965. My grandfather was the manager of the Socony-Mobil docks in SP and my father was the captain of tankers. If the tank farms and the shopping malls generated so much revenue, why did SP schools have to wait so long to be revitalized? I believe SP lost its identity in the 1960s and 1970s and is only now re-asserting it.