South Portland City Council will meet Wednesday night to vote on tar sands oil ban

City Council is expecting another large turnout when it takes up a proposed ordinance that would prohibit loading tar sands crude oil onto ships.

The council was scheduled to vote on the proposal Monday, but City Hall couldn't accommodate all the people who came to the meeting to show their support or opposition. The council's chambers hold 96 people and hundreds showed up, officials said.

The proposal is narrower in scope than one voters rejected in November 2013. That ordinance was designed to prevent Portland Pipe Line Corp. from bringing tar sands oil into the city from Canada via underground pipe.

Environmentalists say tar sands - a mixture of sand, raw petroleum and water - are difficult to clean if spilled and dangerous to ship via pipe. But oil companies say the proposed restrictions would threaten local jobs and industry.

At Monday's meeting, Mayor Jerry Jalbert asked nonresidents to give up their seats to residents and offered an opportunity to watch the meeting on television in a nearby conference room. But that did little to alleviate the standing-room-only crowd, and Jalbert said the large turnout was a safety issue.

The proposal will be taken up Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the much larger South Portland Community Center. There will be more than 500 chairs available, city officials said.