Archive for December, 2010

Idaho Hearing Officer may side with ConocoPhillips but other Tar Sands companies are on the run

The ruling from Idaho state hearing officer Merlyn Clark suggests the shipments be approved. No final decision has been made yet, however, but we all expect Ness, Director of ITD, to make his final decision after the fourteen day reconsideration period. Continuing legal avenues are being pursued by opponents in Idaho, but the decision is disappointing.

Opponents in Idaho have also requested to intervene in contested case regarding the 207 Exxon loads as well.

If you are interested in whether all this hubbub has impacted interest from other companies who might want to ship along the Highway 12 route, it has. Both the Canadian news source, the Globe and Mail, and the online Canadian Shipping website, ShippingOnline.cn, note that opposition to Tar Sands shipments in Idaho and Montana has led companies to begin searching for new routes into Alberta. The Mackenzie River is one option that has come to light as potential for the shipments.

So, there are two point to consider here.

One, early in the days of opposing the Highway 12 shipments, alas just 8 months ago, our fear was that MDT and ITD would turn the road into a permanent corridor and that we would see thousands of trucks along the route for years to come. The companies that are looking for other northern routes represent those thousands, and, if by some unlikely chance they are permitted to travel along Highway 12 and we just can’t stop them, our worst fear would be realized.

Two, the Mackenzie River route makes no more sense from a safety standpoint than does Highway 12, and the realities of arctic ice could very well keep the plan from succeeding. Even so, Northern Transportation Co. Ltd head, Martin Landry, has planned a trip to Seoul. S. Korea to meet with Korean manufacturing and shipping companies.

According to the Globe and Mail,

“NTCL has 76 years of experience in hauling freight up and down the Mackenzie, and has enough spare tug and barge capacity that it could bring 27 barges – each carrying multiple components – using its existing fleet, Mr. Landry said. The company also has a massive dock in Hay River, NWT, that it has built in anticipation of a Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline that has yet to be built, and has recent experience in trans-loading major pieces of equipment from ocean-going ships to barges.

But the northern option has several downsides. At least seven bridges on the 1,300-kilometre road from Hay River to Fort McMurray would need to be assessed by engineers to ensure they could accept the heavy loads. And, more importantly, Arctic ice would limit the season to just August and September, a window so narrow it could prove difficult to use for oil sands projects intent on speeding construction.

“If a project misses the last sailing, you’re basically stuck for a year. And the nature of these projects is that once someone gives the green light, they don’t want anything delayed. So a restriction on the shipping season – they would bypass that pretty quickly if they could,” said Rob Eskens, director of sales for Manitoulin Transport.

He called the NTCL idea “a little optimistic.”

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Mammoet reports mega-load shipping accident

As reported on TradingMarkets.com, the company hired to ship giant loads of mining equipment overland from the Port of Lewiston, ID to the oil fields of Alberta has, unsurprisingly, not mentioned that it dumped a 300,000 pound piece of equipment overboard while hauling it through Indiana earlier this year. The accident, which occurred on July 21, (which we assume must have been known to Imperial officials) went unmentioned as opposition to similarly sized shipments grew in Idaho and Montana. Of note is the concern raised by local citizens regarding the safety of the shipments as they make their way down highway 12.

“Previously, Imperial Oil officials have said the possibility of such an accident was so remote taking precautions such as having a crane readily available were not necessary as it transports megaloads on U.S. 12. Imperial Oil’s largest oversized load will weigh 288,000 pounds, not counting a trailer and semi truck.

Of course, officials with ITD, Mammoet, and Imperial refused to comment on the accident.

ITD allows ConocoPhilips to turn Highway 12 into an even more private corridor

“…Emmert is authorized to barricade the approved turnouts for exclusive use for the wide loads up to 24 hours in advance for each move.”

The above statement was drawn from the permit given to Ememert International by the Idaho Transportation Department. As well, the permit gave the company permission to travel 7 days a week, as opposed to the five day travel schedule promised to Idaho and Montana residents. This means that the ITD has authorized the company to turn a beautiful, scenic, and public, highway into a private drive for the sole use of the mega-load companies.

As our friends at Fighting Goliath put it, “With 274 loads now planned for 2011, we can likely look forward to a majority of large turnouts along the Clearwater, Middlefork and Lochsa Rivers barricaded from public use 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.”

It sounds like the Idaho Transportation Department is getting their priorities clearly in order. Corporations first, state citizens second. “Hunters, fishers, kayakers, rafters, hikers, campers and all other recreationists can go somewhere else. Rest stops, emergency stops, and access to the Clearwater National Forest, the Clearwater River and its tributaries, the Nez Perce and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trails are not as important to Idaho’s state government as is accommodating giant corporations.”

Now would be a good time to let our federal officials know that we do not condone giving over the use of our public highways to pushy oil corporations.

Northern Region Forest Service
Federal Building
200 East Broadway
P.O. Box 7669
Missoula, Montana
59807-7669

INFO: (406) 329-3511

CLEARWATER NATIONAL FOREST RICK BRAZELL- FOREST SUPERVISOR

12730 Highway 12,
Orofino, ID 83544

Phone (208) 476-4541
Fax (208) 476-8329
TDD Hearing Impaired (208) 476-0129

DOT FHWA National Scenic Byways Program
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
HEPH-30
Washington, DC 20590

1-800-4BYWAYS (1-800-429-9297)
1-202-366-1586

Program Director: nsb-director@byways.org

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act or the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
Dan Haas
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
64 Maple Street
Burbank, Washington 99323
Telephone: (509) 546-8333
Email: daniel_haas@fws.gov

Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590