South Portland oil pipeline company seeks tax abatement

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Portland Pipe Line Corp., which is suing the city to block the Clear Skies Ordinance, is seeking a $320,000 property tax abatement.

Assessor Jim Thomas said the company applied for the abatement Dec. 29, 2016, for 11 properties it owns in the city. Thomas said the company is seeking an $18 million reduction in value, to approximately $27 million.

Thomas said if it is granted, the abatement would save the company about $320,000 in taxes for the current fiscal year, ending June 30. 

He also said the company is the fifth-largest taxpayer in the city, which collects about $64 million in property taxes per year.

Thomas said Portland Pipe Line provided limited information explaining why the company believes it is entitled to the abatement, although its abatement application suggests the city’s Clear Skies Ordinance is the reason for the reduced value of its property.

The ordinance, adopted in 2014, prohibits the bulk loading of crude oil on tankers and effectively prohibits pumping tar sands oil through the 236-mile Portland-Montreal Pipeline to South Portland, where the fuel could then be transferred to ships.

Portland Pipe Line, which is a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy, and American Waterways Operators sued the city in U.S. District Court in February 2015 to overturn the ordinance.

Through Dec. 31, 2016, South Portland’s total expenditures to defend the Clear Skies Ordinance were more than $1 million.

The City Council approved transferring $500,000 from the city’s unassigned fund balance to the Clear Skies Ordinance Legal Defense Fund on Feb. 6. The council also appropriated about $100,000 in donations to the fund.

Thomas said he now has until the middle of April to make a decision on the tax abatement.

If Portland Pipe Line is unhappy with the decision it can appeal to the city’s Board of Assessment Review. Either the city or the company can appeal that decision in court, or through the Maine State Board of Property Tax Review.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Oil conduit leads away from the Portland Pipe Line Corp.’s terminal on the South Portland waterfront.