Forrest Service throws in their own mega-load concerns

Leslie Weldon, an official of the Unites States Forest Service, has stated that the proposed mega-load shipment route could “harm the agency’s ability to preserve cultural and historical values associated with the corridor,” reports the Great Falls Tribune.

We take the statement of the Forest Service as a boon to opponents of the mega-load issue, especially because it looks like at least the first two Conoco/Phillips loads may begin to roll early this coming week. When that happens, all hands on deck. Once the trucks begin to move it will take them four days to trek along Highway 12 and reach Lolo Pass. From there they will overnight on the pass, in Lolo, and then in Bonner. Public resistance to these first shipments will sends a message to Exxon and other companies that Idaho and Montana will not be easily thrown under the wheels. The hold up of Conoco/Phillips was just the beginning. This fight will continue.

    • George Price
    • January 16th, 2011

    They might roll this week?! What about the turnouts? Have they built the 60-some-odd turnouts that they need for this yet? Also, I thought they couldn’t do this in Winter, due to road conditions, possible storms, etc. Has it been verified that they are ready to go now?

  1. The only shipment that might roll soon are the four Conoco/Phillips trucks. They require no turnout or power line work before moving. They are going to a Billings refinery as an upgrade to existing facilities to be able to process heavier tar sands oil, not to Alberta. The Recent lawsuit in Idaho has stalled these shipments for a number of months. Exxon has not yet been permitted, and most likely it will take another number of month to get through the legal process regarding those shipments. The interveners in the Conoco/Phillips permit have already filed against the Exxon Mobil shipments. If legal intervention fails, expect them to roll later this spring or early summer. However, we feel that it is important to oppose the Conoco shipments as strongly as possible.

      • Alan Blake
      • January 18th, 2011

      You couldn’t be more wrong about the ConocoPhillips shipments “going to a Billings refinery as an upgrade to existing facilities to be able to process heavier tar sands oil”. Completely false. They are replacing existing equipment that has only been in service for, oh geez, 20 YEARS..providing fuel for your Subarus. They are NOT an upgrade and have absolutely nothing to do with tar sands. Get your facts straight. Also, US12 is a HIGHWAY, not restricted on commerce–despite how pretty the trees are. If you want to admire the scenery get off the highway, dodge the logging trucks, and hit the trail. Finally, “Forrest” is actually spelled “Forest”. This isn’t a movie with Tom Hanks….but maybe it should be…

      • The refinery in Billing is already set up to accept and refine heavy crude, and has been receiving theirs from Alberta for some time. The drums currently sitting in Lewiston are upgrades to already existing facilities. They will not allow the refinery to do anything new, just simply continue refining oil derived from what many in the international community have described as the single most destructive industrial project on the face of the planet, and they don’t mean destructive to just the “pretty trees.”

        If you are interested in facts regarding just how much oil the billings refinery brings in from Alberta please read “Tracking Tar Sands Crude,” a report issued by Earthworks in April 2010. I’ll tell you, the Conoco refinery, as of the report, doesn’t go through as much Alberta crude as the Exxon refinery, also in Billings.

        As for highway 12, the ITD has given Conoco the ability to barricade all turnouts required for their passage 24 hours before the loads roll. If the same allowance is made for Exxon that means we can pretty much kiss all the turnouts and parking places used by everybody along highway 12 goodbye. Doesn’t really sound like simple commerce anymore, but the privatization of pubic lands.

      • Also, the coker unit at the Billings Refinery was built in ’92 to specifically accept heavy crude. If you have an issue with that, take it up with the Billings Gazette.

    • George Price
    • January 17th, 2011

    Thanks for the quick reply. I still don’t see how they can do it. Are the Conoco trucks much smaller than Exxon’s?

    • If I remember correctly, the Conoco loads are bigger, but lighter than Exxon’s. But since there are only four of them, and not 207, they don’t have to do the work Exxon needs to do.

        • George Price
        • January 19th, 2011

        Thanks, but I’m still baffled as to why they would not need to construct new turnouts for these 225 foot long megaloads. If they are travelling at speeds of 5 to 20 mph (as stated in the press and in the official plan on the MDT website) and are required to pull over every 15 minutes in Idaho and every 10 minutes in Montana, where are they going to pull over if they don’t first build new turnouts or lengthen existing ones? Its been awhile since I’ve driven the entire length of Hwy 12 in Idaho, but as I recall many of the turnouts were barely long enough for a regular-sized passenger van to safely pull in and out of. I’m wondering if they’re planning on not having to pullover so often because they will be travelling at night in relatively light traffic, and not that many people will notice. Let’s hope the light traffic does not include an ambulance or other emergency service vehicle trying to save someone’s life.

    • Alan Blake
    • January 19th, 2011

    Again, a point of clarification. In one sentence you say “upgrade”…and immediately after you say “they will not allow the refinery to do anything new”. This conflictive statement bears testimony to the lack of understanding. The drums are replacements for existing drums that have been in operation for nearly 20 years. They are, again, NOT an upgrade. They are part of a Coker unit, which indeed does allow a refinery to run heavier crudes. Heavy crude does not immediately equate to “tar sands”…in fact quite the opposite is true. Most domestic crude outside of the West Texas Intermediate basins could be classified as “heavy”…and have been gathered using traditional means for decades. That’s why refineries built Coker units over 30 years ago. The tar sands business is NOT the reason ConocoPhillips has this equipment on the road. A road which is used for commerce….bringing me to my next point.

    The barricading of turnouts is an issue being exaggerated by those who oppose the transport. It’s ironic you folks didn’t oppose the 234 oversize loads that ITD has issued on US12 over the last 10 years….18 of them in 2010. One of them a compressor 23′ wide, 19′ tall and 201′ long…and 254,000lbs. Prejudice against similar 4 loads for ConocoPhillips defies common sense. The barricading of turnouts is an activity that has been going on as long as commerce existed on highways. ITD facilitates this through the issuance of an Encroachment Permit, which gives a transporter the legal right to use these areas temporarily. This is nothing new. What does this mean? This means Emmert will, in advance, barricade the turnout that they will use to park the loads during the ensure the space is available and no further delay to traffic is encountered. No, they won’t be shutting down US12….give me a break. And, sharing the road does mean occasional traffic delays, the same kind you experience every summer during construction season or in the winter during a storm. People are trying to do a job here and make a living….for a refinery that’s been supplying you fuel for over 60 years. Unless you divulge yourself of your car, the rubber tires on your bicycle, and the energy to power your computer and home–give up the hypocrisy.

    • Refineries around the country are gearing up to accept heavy crude from the Alberta Tar Sands. This is part of the countries plan to turn to more “domestic” (ie Canada) oil sources as easily obtainable oil runs out around the world. Again if you have any interest in how much Tar Sands oil the refinery actually goes through, that data is available. Again, according to yet another source, the Helenair,( 85 percent of oil refined in Montana comes from Canada. So, regardless of what you say, this does have quite a bit to do with the tar sands.

      With regards to the loads themselves, you are right. If this was just one, two, or even four loads nobody would have likely raised an eyebrow. But with Exxon and now Harvest Energy Corp proposing to use the route in a much more extreme way than has been used before, and even you have to admit that 234 loads over ten years isn’t the same as 260+ in a single year, public attention has turned to what the loads actually mean for the future of the region and the country.

      Emmert blocking the turnouts beforehand does, in a physical way, mean that anyone who had the intention of using those place to fish, hike, camp, park, or pull over because they might be tired will not be able to so. That’s just plain and simple.

      As far as the “upgrade” debate, I’m bored with it.

    • And if you have actual data or any legitimate resources whatsoever to back up your claims, whatever they might be, I’d love to hear them.

    • Janet Meggerson
    • February 1st, 2011

    I think the whole thing stinks personally! I have had to make the trip to Orofino in the ambulance recently and the ambulance had to pull over into a turnout to place an I.V. What is going to happen ? What is going to happen if we have a wildfire as we did a few years ago? How are the emergency vehicles going to get through? Are these large greedy Corps. prepared to lifeflight? Are they prepared to fight fires? Or how about someone who needs help on the river? What about those who work in Lewiston and a mega load breaks down or wrecks and blocks our hiway for days? Have these situations even been considered? I don’t believe these Corps. in accordance with greed, have even considered the numerous tragic possibilities that could occur. It always makes me wonder what would happen if the shoes were on the other feet? Todays greed makes me sick to my stomach!
    Thank you for at least allowing me to voice my opinion.
    Janet Meggerson

    • Lyle Meeks
    • February 4th, 2011

    So, the 4 loads made it through Idaho without incident. No wildfires in the middle of winter, duh. A fleet of safety vehicles, including an ambulance. I am extremely tired of citizens throwing up imaginary problems in the prevention of interstate commerce. I would like someone to tell me how a big truck passing by on the highway affects the ability of the USFS to maintain the wild and scenic integrity of Hwy. 12.

    • Actually, the first truck to leave Lewiston, and so far there has only been one truck actually leave the port, caused a 59 minute delay on Highway 12 on their second night out, and hasn’t meived an inch since then. That means a delay for citizens, and people using the highway for commerce. As of this morning, Feb 4th, ITD is demanding that Conoco file an entirely new travel plan before they will even allow the second truck out of the gate.

      As far as the USFS, the designation of the Lochsa as “Wild and Scenic” means that it falls under the “Wild and Scenic Act.” This is an actual piece of federal law that requires agencies and states to protect the nature of what makes that river wild and scenic, including the surrounding area. An industrial corridor next to a wild and scenic river does not actually meet those guidelines. Idaho Rivers United maintains that the proposed corridor is actually illegal under federal law.

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