Tar Sand Trucks Chomping at the Bit

ConocoPhillips joins the parade

Four oversize loads sit waiting on trailers at Idaho’s Port of Lewiston, poised and ready to roll across the northern Rockies, save only for the final pieces of red tape.  Even as executives from Exxon and Montana Department of Transportation continue to claim that the scenic routes over Lolo and Rogers passes are not being turned into a permanent trucking corridor for the oil industry, ConocoPhillips is waiting for the final go-ahead for it’s own high/wide loads to cross the region, having already been off-loaded from barges on the Snake river.

ConocoPhillips loads at Port of Lewiston, Photo by Roger Inghram

Though headed for an oil refinery in Billings, MT rather than to the mines of Alberta directly, the four ConocoPhillips shipments are expected to be just as wide as the infamous loads slated to occur with Exxon/Imperial Oil’s Kearl Module Transport Project that is currently under environmental review.  Most preparations for the sooner shipments have been made and there is speculation that Conoco is waiting only for some bridge construction to be completed along the route before submitting final travel plans to Idaho Transportation Department.  Both ITD and regional activists plan to watch these shipments very closely.

Exxon/Imperial Oil still answering Montana comments

The public comment period for ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil’s Kearl Module Transport Project (KMT) environmental assessment closed on May 14, 2010.  So for there has been no official response from Montana Department of Transportation, stating only that the applicant (Exxon) is still responding to the over 20,000 comments submitted.  MDT received an unprecedented number of comments in the final days of the comment period, resulting in a two-day server crash at MDT and an unknown number of comments failing to be heard as a result.  Theoretically, MDT could accept Exxon’s responses and issue approval for the KMT at any moment.  For now, the silence is deafening.

Indigenous activists visit Missoula

Wednesday, June 2nd saw a flood of concerned Missoulians to the Roxy theater for a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “H2Oil” hosted by the Missoula No Shipments Network and the Indigenous Environmental Network (movie trailer available on right-hand side of this page).  As the screening room filled up to capacity and more people continued to arrive, a second screen had to be opened for a simultaneous viewing to accommodate everyone.  Following the film, three guests took to the stage to discuss first-hand experiences with resistance to the Tar Sands.  George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta spoke about that community’s experiences living downstream from the Tar Sand mines and dealing with the oil companies.  Marty Cobenais, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, discussed the campaign against tar sand pipelines to the US.  Surprise guest Winona LaDuke also took the stage briefly, somewhat distracting the event’s starstruck attendees from the subject at hand.

Bike Bloc escorts key players to people’s tribunal

Thursday, June 4th- Festivities continued in Missoula against the tar sands one day following the screening of H2Oil at the Roxy theater.  A Critical Mass Bike Ride included a bike-pulled trailer carrying “Exxon’s bed” to the Missoula office of MDT.  Upon arrival the bed, in which lied (sic) “Mr. Exxon and MDT Director Jim Lynch”, was stopped by a jubilant mob of anti-tar sand protesters who had assembled a mock court for the two climate criminals.  After some brief arguments between the judges and the accused, Lynch was found guilty of being in bed with Exxon and sentenced to get out of bed!

See the Missoulian article here.

Building resistance

Bi-weekly meetings of the No Shipments Missoula network continue to grow in size and the trend appears set to continue.  Please join us at the next meeting, June 23rd, @ 5:15pm in the back room of the Jeanette Ranking Peace Center on 2nd and S. Higgins in Missoula.  We need to keep up the pressure against these shipments!  Also, check out this new site created by the Rural People of Highway 12 for more information about the campaign to stop the trucks in Idaho.

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    • George Price
    • August 22nd, 2010

    Here is an excerpt from a letter that I sent to Governor Schweitzer last week:

    I can briefly summarize my (and many other Montanans’) objections to this proposal in a concise four-point outline:

    1.) The very minimal potential economic benefits to some citizens of Montana (mainly pilot car drivers, the MDT, and some oil-related businesses) are not worth the risk of disastrous harm to some of our most vital riparian habitats, and other scenic areas. Potential damage can occur from cave-ins and landslides on the highways, both during construction of the dozens of necessary additional turnouts, and during the actual transport. There is no precedent by which we can anticipate with any certainty the impact of the sheer weight of these enormous vehicle loads. And, like any other motor vehicles, human error or unforeseen accidental circumstances could cause them to leave the road.

    2.) The processes for extracting oil from bitumen/tar/oil sands used in Alberta, past and current technology to date, has proven to be extremely environmentally destructive, producing process-related wastes that are toxic to wildlife and humans. Many local Canadian First Nations people have perished from cancers related to the pollution of rivers, ground water, and fisheries caused by these processes. The transportation of these equipment modules through our state will only help perpetuate this tragic destruction of life.

    3.) Besides the obvious inconvenience to drivers that the continuous transporting of oversize oil equipment would cause, there is also the inevitable circumstance of obstruction to police, ambulance and firefighting vehicles, while waiting for the big rigs to reach their next turnout (at speeds between 5 and 30 mph). These waits could possibly be in violation of Montana’s 10 minute maximum traffic obstruction law, depending on how many turnouts are constructed along the entire 500+ mile route. This would not end with the initial 202 vehicles- once precedent is set- perhaps not until an environmental disaster and/or human tragedy occurs, leading to overwhelming public disapproval, and embarrassment to our state.

    4.) Exxon/Mobile, Phillips Petroleum and the other gargantuan oil companies do not need this nearly free (the fees are mere pocket change to them) gift from the people of Montana and Idaho. These companies could easily afford to buy one, two, or an entire fleet of C-135 (or other more recent model) military transport planes to transport this cargo to their oil fields, and build their own landing strips, as well. They would barely feel a pinch to their exorbitant profit margins from that. Or, they could build the equipment right there in Alberta, instead of in Korea, providing many jobs to Canadians and possibly many Montanans as well. But, why would they consider those viable options, if two U.S. states are willing to roll out the doormat and help them save perhaps a few hundred million dollars in exchange for whatever crumbs they might be willing to spill from their table? Furthermore, is any amount of money worth the potential cost to life in Montana, Idaho, and Alberta?

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