Archive for April, 2010

You are invited, cordially, to the Tar Sands Shipments Open House

So, you’ve heard about the giant trucks that are rolling through western Montana this fall and winter headed for the Alberta Tar Sands, but you want to know what, exactly, is going on?

Then please join us for

A Tar Sands Shipments Open House

6:30-7:30pm

Tuesday, April 27th

University of Montana Campus

Third Floor of the UC

Room 330/331

Northern Rockies Rising Tide, UM Climate Action Now, and the entire No Shipments Network invite you to a public presentation on the local, regional, and international impacts of the Mammoet Shipments and the Alberta Tar Sands.


The Alberta Tar Sands have been called out in the international community as the worst industrial project on the face of the planet. Currently Exxon Mobil is planning to invest 26.1 million dollars to open up a new northwest corridor to ship Tar Sands mining equipment from South Korea to Alberta. The proposed route begins in international waters, comes up the Columbia and Snake Rivers to the Port of Lewiston, and from there moves along the Lochsa river, up over Lolo pass, through Missoula and up the Blackfoot River to the Port of Sweetgrass. The trucks carrying the equipment are, at their largest, 24 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and 262 feet long; the size of a three story building with the length of almost a football field.

The Environmental Assessment as required by Montana Department of Transportation regulations has just come out but does not adequately address the impacts these shipment will have on local communities, emergency vehicle passage, or environmental damage from road construction. Most importantly, the assessment does not even mention the impacts Tar Sands mining has on Climate Change even though Montana stand to be greatly affected by the continued use of such fuels.

As well, the scope of the Assessment is drastically limited and does not take into account the entire route through which these shipments will pass. By only completing the Montana Environmental Assessment Exxon Mobil is circumventing any federal process that would require them to look at the shipment route as a whole. We need to press the Montana DOT to submit to a federal Environmental Impact Statement to take into full account all the damages that Tar Sands mining generates.

So, after coming to the open house and hearing about the issue please come out and tell the DOT that there needs to be a much more extensive review of the damages these shipments will cause.

Public hearings on the Environmental Assessment will be:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 Open House: 6:00 p.m., Presentation and Public Hearing: 6:30 p.m. Cut Bank Civic Center, 800 E. Railroad, Cut Bank, MT

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 Open House: 6:00 p.m., Presentation and Public Hearing: 6:30 p.m. Lincoln School Gymnasium, 808 Main Street, Lincoln, MT

Thursday, April 29, 2010 Open House: 6:00 p.m., Presentation and Public Hearing: 6:30 p.m. Meadow Hill Middle School, Old Gymnasium, 4210 Reserve Street, Missoula, MT

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Organize against the Tar Sands? From here?

Ok all,

The Environmental Assessment for the Kearl Oil Sands Project shipments just came out. Now is the time to jump on organizing around this issue. There are a few things in place already, and we’ve had some talks with regional and local organizers along the shipment path, lawyers, etc. Now it the time to start building a strong local opposition to this project.

If you don’t know, Exxon Mobile, through a subsidiary called Imperial Oil, is developing yet another devastating Tar Sands mine in northern Alberta. They are bringing giant trucks carrying equipment for the project through Missoula this fall. This issue not only involves our state and country subsidizing the work of a giant exploitative corporation, but also our country remaining complacent through the expansion of what some have called the most destructive project in the world. This shipment route through Idaho and western Montana is one of the few opportunities for local communities to take on the international issue of the Tar Sands from our side of the border. Let’s show ‘em what we got.

There is more information on our website , if you care to peruse it before coming to—-

A MEETING CONCERNING THE SHIPMENTS!!
Wednesday 14th (tonight)
5:15 PM
Jeanette Rankin Peace Center (back door)
519 South Higgins Avenue

Montana DOT Environmental Assessment

Like we said, Otter Creek funds will not support Montana schools

So here it is. After months of public comment in opposition to the Otter Creek coal lease, after public protests from every corner of the state, and even after five activists tried to halt the ‘yes’ vote to lease coal in the State capital building less than a month ago, the Montana State Land Board still leased Otter Creek. Because of the actions of various organizations and individuals opposed to the lease, Otter Creek gained increasing national attention, and in many ways the coal fight waged in Appalachia has begun to move west. But let’s settle for a moment on a more local issue that persisted throughout the Otter Creek sale.

The issue was the awkward shift in Schweitzer’s and the Land Board’s rhetoric regarding how the lease money would be spent. The shift regards Montana’s public schools.

Both Brian Schweitzer and Linda McCulloch, in an effort to move public opinion in favor of the lease, “promised” that the money would be used to support Montana’s public schools, institutions that certainly need all the financial help they can get right now. In fact, according to Article X, Section 5 of the Montana State Constitution, 95 percent of the revenue generated from such a sale should be apportioned to the public school system with the remaining five percent headed for the permanent trust. However, the law has been interpreted by state policy makers over the years in such a way that schools see almost no benefit from the sale of public lands. When money from leases goes into the school pot, the same amount of money is taken out of the part of the general fund that also supports public education. The result for Montana schools in terms of an increase in funding? Zero.

Governor Schweitzer knew this. So, when high school students and teachers began talking about this very slippery and possibly unconstitutional loophole months ago, certain members of the Land Board shut their mouths and song and danced their way off the education funding stage. The theater they turned to next, however, was the Land Board meetings themselves, where the Governor promised money to anybody and everybody that could make him, and his dirty coal lease, look good.

Now, much of the money that was promised on that public stage was, and is, desperately needed by those groups, but in many ways Schweitzer had no real ability to promise Otter Creek coal cash to fund them. His only real decision in the matter was whether or not to cut funding to those groups in this time of financial crisis. It is the role of the 2011 legislature to decide how the $85 million from the Otter Creek lease, or rather the $85 million in relieved general funds, should be spent, not the Governor’s.

So, what was all that brouhaha about promised funds for disabled benefits and teachers and schools across the state? Theater. It was the stage of public relations upon which the façade of public support was erected.

Schweitzer needed this sale to look good, and in many ways the recent blackmailing of public officials was just an attempt to pick up the fallen PR pieces from the sale itself. But, the blackmailing backfired and we were given another round to wage the fight against the leasing of Otter Creek resulting in the retraction of the letter requirement amidst national negative attention for the Governor.

So in the end, schools probably won’t get their money, and many of those who were promised funds by the Governor might not see a dime either. But, if they do, it won’t be Schweitzer’s fault.

Northern Rockies Rising Tide Blackmails the Governor

Members of Northern Rockies Rising Tide and several members of the Missoula community hit the streets during last night’s First Friday to give Brian Schweitzer a taste of his own medicine. That being, of course, blackmail–or rather, black mail. In response to Schweitzer’s request that community leaders write letters of approval regarding his decision to lease the Otter Creek coal tracts to Arch Coal Inc. before he will release frozen Stimulus funds, NRRT passed out over 400 envelopes addressed to the governor, each literally containing a piece of black mail, and urged community members to affix their own return address and mail them in.

Schweitzer’s decision to lease Otter Creek has been faced with widespread opposition from environmental advocates, high schoolers, ranchers, and other Montana citizens. His reasoning, that he doesn’t want “any community to use coal money that didn’t want to use coal money,” is obviously a thinly veiled attempt to bolster his approval ratings, and apparently, Schweitzer would rather twist the arms of Montana’s communities than face the reality that his decision is an unpopular one.

Breaking News: Governor Schweitzer a Total Scheisser

Montana’s Coal Cowboy Attempts to Blackmail Local Officials to Support Coal Mine.

Governor Schweitzer–in what is very likely a violation of the Montana State Constitution and most certainly a violation of what most nice, respectable people consider to be civil and decent–is attempting to coerce county governments to proclaim their support for the State Land Board’s recent decision to undersell 572 million tons of coal reserves in the Otter Creek valley to mining giant Arch Coal.

Schweitzer, apparently, sees it as a grave injustice to allow communities that do not support coal development (“whether because they don’t live near hydrocarbon production or other reasons,” in the words of the infinitely wise and eloquent governor himself) to receive state money garnered from said development.

Aside from the blatant illegality of withholding state stimulus funds from local officials until they pay Schweitzer his desired ransom (namely, their dignity), the point that the governor is trying to make (“if you don’t like America, you should move your ungrateful commie ass back to Russia,” essentially) is also problematic. It is this very logic which has, throughout the years, guided the Coal Cowboy in his myopic and asinine political crusade on behalf of the fossil fuels industry.

The issue of Otter Creek coal, however, is not: If we don’t strip mine our last remaining hydrocarbon resources, then we won’t have any money for roads, education, disability services, etc. That’s a ruse, a false dichotomy.

Rather, the actual and utterly exigent problem we face today, right now, here in the real world, runs more along these lines: if we don’t make immediate and dramatic reductions in carbon emissions (from coal and other fossil fuels) then we will continue to see an increase in global-warming caused natural disasters, eventually resulting in an unstoppable positive feedback loop of catastrophic proportions–a total global calamity who’s victims will be (and already are) the people who have contributed the least to its cause.

For more on this, check out:

George Ochenski’s perspicacious observations in the Missoula Independent

The New York Times out-of-state-take on the issue.

The Missoulian’s philosophy on the subject

The Governor’s blackmail letter to the Missoula County Commissioners.