Residents of Idaho and Montana are hastily gearing up for a battle against Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil. The Kearl Module Transport Project is their plan to move huge Korean-made equipment through Idaho and Montana on it's way to the tar sands of Alberta.
Some of Imperial Oil's 200 or more loads, to be transported weeknights over the course of a year, will be as high as a three-story building, as wide as a two-lane highway and nearly three-quarters of a football field in length.
The effects of the Kearl Module Transport Project on Montanans is described by the Clark Fork Coalition.
We may have to say goodbye to quiet, pristine mornings on the river. Instead, imagine the noise, the wildlife fatalities, the threats to water quality, the traffic snarls, the obstructed views, and the inevitable hits to recre[a]tion-based, amenity-rich local economies if a proposal from ExxonMobil goes through. So far, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has produced only a brief Environmental Assessment (EA) on the proposal for a 'High and Wide' Transportation Corridor in western Montana. And unfortunately, the EA is an inadequate and short-sighted document on many fronts, starting with its portrayal of the project.The MDT released the EA on April 8. A 30-day comment period began April 14, which leaves little time for concerned citizens to respond.
From the Missoulian article
Missoula attorney Bob Gentry and others are pushing first to extend the public comment period beyond May 14. They want MDT to call for a more involved, lengthy and expensive federal Environmental Impact Statement.
Gentry, who worked for MDT's legal services division until last summer, said no matter what, you're not going to stop ExxonMobil from mining the tar sands of Alberta, a 50-year project that involves virtually every major oil extraction company.The Clark Fork Coalition is calling for a broader study of the proposal, as well.
What the company is trying to do is "externalize" costs on a shorter transportation route from Korea, where the massive pieces of equipment are prefabricated, Gentry said. Is it fair that the people of Montana end up bearing part of those costs?
"If there are alternate routes that cost them more money but are less impactful to the people of the state of Montana than building a permanent high-wide corridor up Wild and Scenic rivers, and up the Blackfoot River, and up the beautiful Front Range of Montana, then make them pay more to do that because it's not worth it to us," Gentry said.
The EA only considers a 12-month time period where 2 loads per day will be moved for a year beginning this fall. However, because the Kearl Oil Sands Project is expected to be active through 2060, we believe limiting the EA to a one-year time period with the proposed parameters doesn't take into account the real potential for decades of use and does nothing to guarantee that the shipments will be constrained to the "off-hours." Other entities involved in the project are at least acknowledging that we're not talking about a one-time deal here. 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.And this is the point: 'high-wide' transportation corridors already exist. They require extra sea and overland travel, but the cost of the shorter alternative is just too great.
Northern Rockies Rising Tide is working to block passage through Montana.
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 impact of this proposed route begins in Idaho along the Lochsa River
, a Wild and Scenic River. And it's a beauty.
The Lochsa River Conservancy has a facebook page with links and information about the River and the plan to widen the highway to move the heavy equipment.
The Lochsa River Conservancy's cause is simple: we don't want the beautiful wild and scenic corridor of the Lochsa to be developed as an international truck route. The area was set aside as wild and scenic in order to keep it undeveloped, to allow tourists, locals, and others a beautiful experience along one of the most remarkable rivers in the Western US.The Missoulian article doesn't mention it, but the proposed route includes US 12 along Lolo Creek, from the Idaho border to Lolo, MT at US 93. Lolo Creek is a beauty, too:
It is hard to imagine the scale of modification of two-lane mountain highways required to accommodate these big rigs.
We are urging MDT to take a much closer look at this project by requiring an Environmental Impact Statement on the creation of this industrial corridor in Montana. We also want to see coordination with the federal permitting entities involved in this project through the NEPA process. We are asking that the EIS:The Western Montana public meeting regarding the Kearl Module Transport Project is today:
* Conduct a programmatic review for the establishment of this permanent industrial corridor;
* Require real alternatives to be considered;
* Provide an economic analysis that accurately weighs the impacts to our recreation and tourism industry;
* Coordinate with DEQ and the federal permitting agencies to properly analyze the transportation project as a whole under both the Montana and National Policy Acts
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, MTThe Clark Fork Coalition provides mail or email contacts for submitting comments to the MDT here. They provide helpful talking points.
Or, submit comments through the MDT link. Sign a petition to stop this proposed equipment movement through Idaho and Montana (the latter petition is on the Northern Rockies Rising Tide web page.)