Archive for May, 2010

Thursday, June 3rd: Rally at the Montana Department of Transportation!

Get the MDT and Director Jim Lynch out of Bed with Exxon!

This coming Wednesday, June 2nd, as many of you already know, Northern Rockies Rising Tide, the Indigenous Environmental Network the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club, UM Climate Action Now, and the No Shipments Network will be hosting A Walk Through the Tar Sands. If you are not aware of this event, please click on the link or see the below post for more information.

Northern Rockies Rising Tide would also like to invite all Missoula citizens concerned with Exxon’s proposal to transform our scenic byways into a tar sands shipping corridor to join us the following day, Thursday, June 3rd, for a…

Rally at the Montana Department of Transportation offices to pressure the MDT and Director Jim Lynch to GET OUT OF BED WITH EXXON, conduct a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement, and deny the permits for the tar sands corridor!

When: Thursday, June 3rd at 12:00 pm

Where: Montana Department of Transportation offices, 2100 W. Broadway.

(There will also be a critical mass community bike ride to the rally leaving from the XXXs on the north end of Higgins Ave. at 11:30)

The rally will open with a “climate justice tribunal” conducted by a Missoula citizens’ jury against Director Jim Lynch, who is being charged with obstruction of climate justice for “being in bed with ExxonMobile,” and is facing a potential sentence of “having to wake up and get out of bed.”

Please join us Thursday to highlight the fact that Jim Lynch and the MDT, in refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming community opposition to this project and by fast-tracking the environmental review process, are catering to big business at the expense of the very public interest which they are obliged to serve.

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A Walk Through the Tar Sands

The Indigenous Environmental Network, Northern Rockies Rising Tide, the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club, UM Climate Action Now, and the No Shipments Network

Formally Invite you to:

A Walk Through the Tar Sands:

A night of first hand accounts regarding the most destructive industrial project on the face of the planet

Join us Wednesday, June 2nd, for a screening of H2Oil, the internationally acclaimed documentary on the Alberta Tar Sands, followed by a presentation by Marty Cobenais, head of the Indigenous Environmental Network’s campaign against Tar Sands pipelines, along with George Poitras, former chief of the Fort Chipewyan Tribe, one of the communities suffering the direct and disastrous effects of Alberta’s oil sands mining.

Wednesday, June 2nd, 6:00PM

Roxy Theater, 718 S. Higgins Av, Missoula, MT

The Alberta Tar Sands constitute the largest portion of U.S. imported oil. They have also been called out in the international community as the most destructive industrial project on the face of the planet. This fall, Missoula could play host to the creation of an industrial shipping corridor that would serve Tar Sands mines for decades to come. Come learn from people with first hand experience with the Tar Sands operations and their effects on the local communities of northern Alberta. There are many reasons to oppose the proposed corridor, and to be informed of issues across the border is to be more powerful in our fight at home.

Marty Cobenias is a longtime native activist with the Indigenous Environmental Network and currently works out of Minnesota on IEN’s campaign opposing proposed Tar Sands pipelines.

George Poitras is the former chief of the Fort Chipewyan tribe and has spoken to the international community about the devastation of the Alberta Tar Sands. Fort Chipewyan resides just downstream of the Tar Sands mines. The residents of the community, mostly Cree First Nations, Dene First Nations, and Metis people suffer from exceedingly high rates of rare cancers, and have taken a strong stand against the up-river mines.

H2Oil is the internationally acclaimed documentary on the devastating effects of Tar Sands mining on the land and the people, and specifically the challenges that Canada’s First Nations people face in trying to find justice in their struggle against the mines.

For more information contact: noshipmentsmissoula@googlegroups.com

______________________________________________________________________

Also, on June 5th

Grammy Award Winning Indigo Girls and Acclaimed Native activist Winona LaDuke appear in Pablo with local and regional activists to raise awareness for a clean energy future

A panel entitled “Environmental Justice in Montana:  Protecting the Land for Future Generations” will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 5 at the Johnny Arlee/Victor Charlo Theatre at the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont.
The event will call for increased resistance to fossil fuels and full investment in clean energy across Indian Country and the United States.

Native activist Winona LaDuke will moderate the panel, which includes four dynamic speakers:

  • Eriel Deranger from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations of Canada, speaking on the impacts of tar sands oil development;
  • Gail Small of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, who will talk about her community’s ongoing struggle to stop coal development;
  • Francis Auld, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes cultural preservation officer will address sacred sites;
  • Rich Janssen, acting director of the CSKT Natural Resource Department will address environmental concerns of the Flathead Reservation.

Environmental Justice Panel

With

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations of Northern Alberta, Rainforest Action Network’s Freedom From Oil Campaigner;

Gail Small, Native Action, Executive Director,

Francis Auld, CSKT cultural preservation;

Rich Janssen, CSKT Acting Director of Natural Resources.

Topics: Alberta tar sands oil, transportation of oil, coal extraction, coal bed methane and the connection between natural resources exploitation and poverty.

Moderated by Winona LaDuke

Short performance by Indigo Girls

1:30 p.m.

Johnny Arlee/Victor Charlo Theatre

Salish Kootenai College

58138 U.S. Highway 93 (theater first turn on right as you enter campus from south)

Pablo, Mont. 59855

Come to the Missoula City Council Hearing!

Monday, May 10th

Missoula City Council Chambers (140 W. Pine St)

7pm

So, some of you have already received the email, but this is important! This Monday, May 10 (tomorrow), the Missoula City Council will make a decision concerning the resolution that will act as their public comment to the Montana Department of Transportation regarding the Tar Sands Shipments.

We need everyone we can get to go to the hearing and request that the strongest possible language be used regarding issues posed in the resolution. We need to encourage City Council member to reintroduce language regarding climate change and the negative impacts that mining the Tar Sands will have on the future on Montana and the world.

Most of all, we need to support the members of the city council who are willing to take a stand against the shipments, and let the DOT know that their review of the damages these shipments will bring has been myopic at best.

If you cant come, and you’d like some advice on how to word you comment to the DOT regarding these shipments, look slightly to you right. Attorney Robert Gentry is in a video discussing some of the problems with the EA, and we have an example of a comment letter that you can send in yourself.

Other than that,

we hope to see you tomorrow, 7pm, Missoula City Council Chambers.

Schweitzer Waves White Flag on Big Rigs

(reposted from 4&20 Blackbirds) (we hope they’re not angry)

By JC

super sized

It seems that in lieu of any rational economic development proposals from Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-Imperial/Exxon) to mitigate the impacts of the collapse of the housing construction (timber) industry and Stone Container, it is best to lay down and let another multinational corporation walk all over us:

“If I could wave a magic wand and get Stone Container open again and get the timber industry going again, I’d do that,” Schweitzer said Friday. “In lieu of that, $68 million worth of road work and flaggers and utility work along the highways – I guess we’ll take it. It’s $68 million worth of jobs [associated with the Kearl big rig project].”

Well, no. 32 million of those 63 million oil dollars are the cost of transport. Not jobs or mitigation costs. Those are dollars paid to out of state/country employees to move the dang things–not jobs for locals. Never mind that the project will disrupt traffic along highways 12 and 200 in western Montana, and create safety hazards and emergency response nightmares. It’s full speed ahead, damn the EA:

“[Schweitzer] scoffed at fears that western Montana will become a permanent vessel for big rigs to the Canadian oil fields and elsewhere.

“That’s not the proposal at all,” he said. “This is temporary for 200 loads and nobody’s proposed a permanent corridor. That’s why it’s an (environmental assessment) and not an (environmental impact statement).”

Except, Governor Big Oil, Exxon did “Propose to create permanent ‘High/Wide Corridor’s through Montana”, as revealed in this MDOT presentation prepared by MDOT Director Jim Lynch last July:
permanent corridor

Of course, in the another quote from him in the Missoulian article, he contradicts himself by saying he’ll try harder the next time a proposal like this comes along:

The governor said he pitched hard – “but I’ll pitch even harder next time” – to see that the equipment to be hauled through the state is built “in some place like Great Falls or Cut Bank or Havre, as opposed to being built in Korea.”

So you say we need an EIS if it is going to be a permanent corridor? Then you’d better order Exxon and MDOT to get to work on an EIS. Or are you just a liar? How dumb do you think we are that you think we can’t read and put 2+2 together???

Even Missoula’s City Council recognizes the falsehoods behind those who want to dismiss this project as a one-off needing just an EA, and have prepared a resolution dated May 10th, 2010 that one would assume would be presented to City Council soon:

WHEREAS, the construction required for these large loads will create a permanent high/wide corridor through Montana and Missoula that will attract the interest of additional oversize trucking projects destined for Alberta, as set forth in the draft Environmental Assessment’s (EA) Past, Present and Reasonably Foreseeable Impacts section and in MDT Director Jim Lynch’s 2009 “Proposed High and Wide Corridors Briefing” to a Montana Legislature committee; and

WHEREAS, the draft EA’s Purpose of the Project does not address the creation of a permanent corridor to serve future oversize;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Missoula City Council hereby declares that complying with the spirit and letter of MEPA and NEPA will require environmental review taking the form of a programmatic joint EIS under MEPA and NEPA and urges MDT to begin such a process in cooperation with affected or involved federal agencies, fully involving the public and exhaustively evaluating the impacts of creating a permanent high/wide commercial transportation corridor from the Port of Vancouver to the Alberta tar sands.

PASSED AND ADOPTED this 10th day of May, 2010.

So folks, get out there and make sure this resolution passes City Council, and get on Schweitzer’s case about his blatant lying here.

And the Clark Fork Coalition noted in its Take Action bulletin that:

“The Port of Lewiston anticipates that “If one oil company is successful with this alternate transportation route, many other companies will follow their lead.” It is obvious that this route is planned to be a permanent industrial corridor to be in use for the forseeable future.”

Somebody needs to get his head out of Imperial/Exxon’s ass the sand and call for a full blown EIS.

Missoulians take ExxonMobile to task over Tar Sand supply route

Video of Jim Hepburn’s public comments
Video of Barbara Hall’s public comments
Video of Summer Nelson’s public comments

Hundreds of residents of western Montana packed the bleachers of Meadow Hill Middle School gymnasium on a rainy Thursday evening in Missoula this week, but the reason for such turnout was hardly a game.  Ostensibly a public hearing regarding the recently released Environmental Assessment (EA) for ExxonMobile/Imperial Oil’s plan to transport massive pieces of equipment from Korea to Canada’s tar sand mines in Alberta along a route which would bring these shipments through the northern Rockies and the city on Missoula, the April 29th meeting appeared in some ways to be more a display of corporate theater.  Though hosted by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) as a part of the EA’s public comment process, state officials huddled in the corner of the room half hidden by the bleachers, while executives from Exxon/Imperial, TetraTech and Fluor corporations sat center-stage, ready to clear up citizens’ confusions and ease concerns.  Beginning with what was to be a pleasant question and answer period, to be followed up by routine comments for the EA’s official record proving MDT’s duty to the public, Ken Johnson of Imperial Oil smiled politely as the first questioner stepped up to the microphone.  Fortunately we here in the inland northwest are not so naive as they likely hoped.

Welcome to Missoula, Mr. Johnson.  Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

One after another, for four hours, concerned residents of the northern Rockies grilled the energy executives on their proposed transport plan, demanding answers regarding everything from how these over-sized loads would affect emergency services’ response times, air and noise pollution in residential neighborhoods, water quality in endangered species habitats, the local economy, and of course global climate.

“Montanans are incredible people, I grew up here and I am constantly amazed by the strength and intelligence I encounter on a daily basis.  The release of this EA with a finding of no significant impact seems insulting to that intelligence,” said Geneveive Schroeder, one of the Rising Tide activists arrested during a sit-in at a meeting of the Montana Land Board in Helena, March 18th.

Missoulian Robbie Liben had to ask the panel his questions several times due to the executives either evasion of an answer or their inability to provide one.  Inquiring about contingency plans in the event of an accident such as a load turning over into one of the many scenic rivers alongside of which the giant trucks intend to travel, each panel member responded with a simple denial that such a thing could happen.  “We do not forsee such an event occurring,” Johnson muttered repeatedly.

“Am I correct then in understanding that you do not have a plan?” Liben asked, eliciting a long silence as the corporate speakers exchanged awkward looks.  One could almost hear the crickets chirping.

“Yes,” replied Imperial Oil’s Ken Johnson as the triumphant crowd exploded in applause.

Several other speakers confronted MDT’s director Jim Lynch on the overall scope of the project which involves two U.S. borders, four U.S. states, corporations from at least five countries, and global climate change causing tar sands development. The facts that construction on highway modifications in Idaho have already begun without any public input or environmental review, that MDT and Port of Lewiston reports have marked this project as establishing a permanent high-wide corridor to the tar sands, or the effects of this project on the Earth’s climate due to its role in expanding the tar sand industry were all summarily dismissed.

The officials seem to see no evil, hear no evil, speak much evil.

“We are here to discuss only Exxon’s proposal to move these loads through Montana,” Johnson and MDT director Jim Lynch both stated, an assertion they were forced to repeat several times with increasing defensiveness as more and more Montana residents expressed their disgust with the limited scope of the EA.  It rapidly became clear than the attendees could see through MDT and Exxon’s cynical ploy to make this highly destructive project appear benign by segmenting it to such a disingenuous level.

“By filing EAs on a state to state basis,” said Schroeder, “Idaho was ignored as their laws allow for a circumvention of assessment of damage.  Most of the construction has already been completed in Idaho, without public knowledge that it was for this project.  It has disrupted local business and caused people in that section of the route to feel voiceless and trampled upon.  The Port of Lewiston has been expanded using federal [stimulus] money, with very specific modifications that fit the needs for this equipment.  The document describing the Port of Lewiston expansion also includes descriptions of several other future shipment projects which will follow the same route, proving that this will not be a one time use corridor.”

Missoula’s Max Granger, another of the activists arrested during the Helena sit-in,  spoke on behalf of Northern Rockies Rising Tide:

As an organization dedicated to confronting the root causes of climate change  and promoting a just transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy, it is our opinion that this environmental assessment profoundly underestimates the local, regional, and global impacts of the project under consideration.

This EA, prepared by a corporation [TetraTech] with a vested interest in rubber stamping  Exxon-Mobile’s proposed exploitation of our state’s resources and roadways, glosses over or flat-out ignores the immense impacts of these shipments on our social and ecological environment, while highlighting the supposed local benefits they will bring to Montana; benefits which are questionable at best, and in any case will be utterly negated by the shipments’ adverse effects.

Limiting the scope of this EA to the 200 plus trucks traveling between Lolo pass and the Port of Sweetgrass ignores the fact that this project is intended to establish a permanent high and wide corridor through Idaho and western Montana–transforming what was once a treasured scenic byway into an industrial transport route which will facilitate the shipment of tar sands and other strip mining equipment for decades to come. The long-term impacts of this proposal on Montana roadways, communities, and environment, which are not even mentioned in the EA, must, for legal as well as ethical reasons, be considered.

By law, environmental assessments must take into account what are known as secondary impacts. Considering the intense and vast breadth of this project, limiting the scope of this EA to the space between the white lines of the highway and from border to border is not only absurdly myopic, but demonstrates a degree of dis-ingenuousness and contempt one might expect from the likes of Exxon-Mobile, not from a state institution entrusted with the public good [MDT].

But perhaps the greatest so-called secondary impact is the giant, dirty elephant in the room: the Alberta tar sands. The extraction of unconventional oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta constitutes, according to leading research climatologist James Hansen, one of the greatest threats to life on Earth today. The vast strip mining operations around Ft. McMurray are the single worst point of origin for climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions in the world–and the devastating repercussions of global climate change, as is becoming increasingly clear, do not recognize national or state boundaries. That is to say: the mining of oil sands in Alberta has a direct and increasingly detrimental effect on the ecological and economic environment of Montana, an effect which is completely absent from the analysis of impacts in the EA.

As corporations like Exxon exploit increasingly unconventional and increasingly dirty hydrocarbon resources, temperatures continue to rise and the Earth’s climate becomes increasingly unstable. Global warming is already having severe impacts on Montana’s agricultural industries as weather and precipitation patterns change, on Montana’s forestry industry as beetle infestations and droughts kill vast tracts of wilderness, on Montana’s tourism industry as the glaciers and snow-capped peaks–the quintessence of our wild and scenic state–disappear before our very eyes, and on the broader ecological stability of Montana’s environment as watersheds suffer reduced flows, invasive plant species thrive in harsher landscapes, and urban settlements struggle with diminished and degraded resources. The current and predicted effects of climate change on Montana are so dauntingly direct that to call this impact “secondary” is quite an understatement–to not even recognize it as an impact is inconceivably obtuse.

Northern Rockies Rising Tide opposes this proposed permit. We demand that this EA be rejected in its current form, that a full Environmental Impact Statement be issued before any further consideration of this project occurs, and that the current comment period on this EA be extended for more thorough public involvement and consideration.

Montana’s state constitution guarantees a clean and healthy environment for all Montanans. We believe that allowing Exxon-Mobile to exploit Montana roads and resources at the expense of the state’s taxpayers and citizens–all in order to make it cheaper for a few wealthy oil executives to continue destroying the planet–runs counter to this constitutional intent. I believe we are echoing a growing sentiment when we say: Montanans are neither obliged nor inclined to act as the servants of callous transnational mega-corporations like Exxon-Mobile, and we refuse to be complicit in their crimes.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of this hearing for some though was the implication of government officials tucked away in the corner while the corporate giants essentially spoke on the state’s behalf.  When NRRT’s Nick Stocks spoke to the public record specifically about this project’s relationship to climate change, he joined several speakers before and after him in turning the microphone to the side to directly address the state officials for whom this forum was supposedly meant to benefit, ignoring the assembled company reps.

“In the current atmosphere of emerging federal climate policy, after federal judges have recognized the need to include carbon emissions within the scope of permitting processes in Montana,” said Stocks, “while the federal EPA realizes the need for stricter carbon emission standards, and while communities across the country vocalize their discontent concerning the current climate status quo, it seems to me to be unconceivable (sic) that the Montana Department of Transportation, in reviewing this Environmental Assessment, would come to the conclusion that concerns regarding carbon emissions that contribute directly to climate change don’t bear mentioning.”

Other commenters included representatives from the University of Montana’s Climate Action Now, National Wildlife Federation, Lochsa River Conservancy, and the Clark Fork Coalition.

Nearly all of the commenters requested in one form or another that MDT extend the public comment period and/or move on to a more comprehensive federal Environmental Impact Statement.  The decision, though completely MDT’s, may be influenced by Missoula’s strong message to ExxonMobile: Go home, and take your tar sands with you!

Unless an extension is granted, the public comment period officially ends on May 14th, 2010.  The time to speak out is right now!  Written comments can be submitted to MDT  online at:

mdtcommentskearl@mt.gov

or on paper to:

Tom Martin
Montana Department of Transportation
PO Box 201001
Helena MT 59620-1001