Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma

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Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma 7-19-14 (July 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

According to at least four Saturday, July 19, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) eyewitnesses, two of the three Calumet tar sands refinery hydrocracker sections stranded at the Port of Wilma, Washington, since mid-December 2013 have vanished [1].  During the week of July 20, Bigge Crane and Rigging of San Leandro, California, is likely hauling these megaloads via river, rail, or road, from the port on the Snake River near Clarkston to the Montana Refining Company in Great Falls.  Last observed and described (but not documented with photos?) on short, heavy-duty, 12-axle trailers at the port on Tuesday, July 15, the loads were missing when a Saturday morning scout noticed crews still in the port lot previously leased for storage and staging of Omega Morgan “water filtration units.”  Questions about whether the hydrocracker parts departed by barge or rail downriver still linger, but after only a few days of travel, these megaloads may not have gone far.

In the fenced port compound, Bigge left white trailer pieces resembling the steel suspension systems seen around other huge fossil fuel extraction contraptions in the region since February 2011.  The company also abandoned the half-million-pound, lightest weight piece of the hydrocracker, the bottom part of the column formed by stacking the three components upright.  Its largest diameter, not weight, may have proved the critical factor restricting its passage by train through tunnels, close bi-directional tracks, or other rail line impediments [2].  Megaload owners and haulers cannot further downsize the three rusty, cylindrical sections and, as announced by late-May newspaper accounts, are probably shipping them to a trans-loading facility for transport on Schnabel train cars [3].  They could be moving the megaloads to the Port of Umatilla on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and attempting the previously permitted eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and western Montana heavy-haul route pummeled by three almost-as-massive Omega Morgan loads last winter, especially while forest fires close eastern Oregon rural routes. Continue reading

Northwest Protests of Omega Morgan-Hauled Tar Sands Megaloads

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12 Transports, 39 Direct Confrontations, 52 Arrests, 2 Citations

Megaload One: Full Evaporator

1) Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) & Allied Protest & Monitoring: October 22, 2012 (Lewiston/Highway 12, Idaho)

2) WIRT & Allied Monitoring: October 23, 2012 (Highway 12, Idaho)

Mini-Megaloads Two & Three: Cylinders

WIRT Missed: December 3 & 4, 2012 (Highway 12, Idaho)

Megaload Four: Full Evaporator

3-6) Nez Perce Tribe & Allied Protests: August 5 to 8, 2013 (Highway 12, Idaho) 28 Arrests

7) Northern Rockies Rising Tide & Allied Protest: August 12, 2013 (Reserve Street, Missoula, Montana)

Mini-Megaloads Five to Eight: Dismantled Evaporator Outer Parts

8) WIRT & Allied Protest: October 15, 2013 (Washington Street, Moscow/Highway 95, Idaho)

Megaload Nine: Dismantled Evaporator Core

9) WIRT & Allied Protest & Monitoring: November 10, 2013 (Washington Street, Moscow/Highway 95, Idaho)

10) WIRT & Allied Protest & Monitoring: November 11, 2013 (Sherman Avenue, Coeur d’Alene/Interstate 90, Idaho)

11) WIRT & Allied Protest & Monitoring: November 12, 2013 (Front & Bank Streets, Wallace/Interstate 90, Idaho) Continue reading

Support the Land Defenders Arrested on Monday at the Utah Tar Sands!


On Monday, July 21, about 80 climate justice land defenders peacefully expressed their First Amendment right to free speech, by staging a massive direct action at the site of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip mine at PR Springs in the Book Cliffs, Utah.  The protest that blocked mining facilities construction culminated a week-long direct action training camp held within two miles of the mine.  Participants of Climate Justice Summer Camp traveled from numerous organizations, states, and sovereign tribal nations to learn direct action skills and build networks.  These inspiring heroes left the comfort of their homes, the company of their families, and the security of their jobs to fight for the future of this beautiful, historical area.

Early in the morning, activists and supporters of Canyon Country Rising Tide, Peaceful Uprising, and Utah Tar Sands Resistance locked themselves to equipment, and a fenced storage cage around it, used to clear-cut and grade an area designated for the tar sands mining company’s processing plant.  Other protesters formed a physical blockade with their bodies, to halt construction work and to protect their locked-down comrades.  They hung and displayed banners off the cage that read: “You Are Trespassing on Ute Land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.” Continue reading

Oil and Gas Rulemaking Public Meeting on Tuesday, July 22


In April 2014, the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted to enter into negotiated rulemaking, to improve and clarify the existing Rules Pertaining to Conservation of Crude Oil and Natural Gas, IDAPA 20.07.02.  The commission published a notice of intent about this process in the Idaho Administrative Bulletin on June 4, 2014.  The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is holding four negotiated rulemaking public meetings in the Idaho Capitol at 8:30 am MDT on June 6 and 18 and on July 2 and 22 [1].  Purportedly state-initiated, but primarily industry-instigated, changes to the rules governing oil and gas development in Idaho are open to oral and written public comments and eventual hearings on the final draft of the proposed rules.  IDL oil and gas program manager Bobby Johnson has managed these rulemaking sessions that have drawn the attendance of agency staff, industry representatives, and stakeholders from Alta Mesa, the Idaho Association of Counties, Idaho Conservation League, IDL, Idaho Department of Water Resources, and Idaho Petroleum Council, and concerned county commissioners, Gem and Payette county residents and landowners, and Boise citizens.

Much that Idahoans cherish is at stake through this rulemaking and associated legislative approval of revised Idaho oil and gas rules and other related laws.  As Gem County activist Joe Morton asserts, the new IDAPA rules and prerogatives advanced by Governor Otter’s appointed Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are eroding, if not eliminating, Idaho private property rights [2].  The state legislature mandated legal clauses proclaiming that the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission shall have “authority over all persons and property, public and private” concerning oil and gas extraction.  Idaho lawmakers also removed local government control of oil and gas exploitation with passage of House Bill 464 in 2012, which states that “No ordinance, resolution, requirement, or standard of a city, county, or political subdivision, except a state agency with authority, shall actually or operationally prohibit the extraction of oil and gas.”  Besides many other troublesome rule changes favoring industry, state agency and commission members are currently displaying corporatism at its best: Writing new IDAPA rules that could force pool 45 percent of non-participating private property owners into relinquishing their rights to minerals taken from under their lands.  Like landowners who do not own their subsurface minerals and accompanying rights in “split estates,” the state of Idaho would allow extraction of oil and gas regardless of property owners wishes. Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: Alma Hasse & Tina Fisher 7-21-14


The Monday, July 21, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide gratefully welcomes Alma Hasse and Tina Fisher of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction, from ground-zero of Idaho oil and gas exploitation, Payette County.  Alma and Tina will provide updates on Idaho oil and gas negotiated rulemaking sessions, rule revisions, and disputes, especially forced pooling and minimum setbacks, as well as Bureau of Land Management mineral leasing decisions and public meetings and premature state permits.  Among other topics, they will also talk about Gem County opposition to private property rights compromised by oil and gas rules, and current industry infrastructure developments and practices in Payette County, including tapping irrigation water for operations.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her/his KRFP DJ.

WIRT Newsletter: Megaload Movements, Nez Perce Summit, Transporta​tion Board U.S. 95 Tour


Port of Wilma Megaloads on the Move!

Borg Hendrickson of the People of Highway 12 Fighting Goliath wrote this week that observers noticed on Tuesday, July 15, that California heavy-hauler Bigge Crane and Rigging has placed two of the three megaloads parked at the Port of Wilma on relatively short, 12-axle trailers.  The third behemoth continues to rust on jacks.  Originally proposed for transport by Mammoet, from the port to the Calumet tar sands refinery in Great Falls, Montana, via U.S. Highway 95 and either Interstate 90 or Idaho Highway 200, the tremendously heavy but not particularly large or long parts of a hydrocracker have remained stalled at the port across the river from Clarkston, Washington, by logistical problems and regional resistance since December 2013.  Mammoet had planned to carry them each on interconnected trailers propelled by one pull truck and two push trucks, together stretching over 450 feet and weighing 1.6 million pounds, the longest and heaviest megaloads to ever crush Highway 95.

As chronicled by late-May, Idaho newspaper articles and June WIRT scouting trips, photos, and newsletters, two of these loads could possibly travel by rail and the other by road through the Moscow, Idaho, sacrifice zone for all failed Highway 12 attempts [1].  Because the short Bigge trailers under two colossal loads likely do not meet state requirements for distributing load weights over numerous axles during cross-state highway journeys, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies anticipate that Bigge is preparing them for their departure either by rail, on Watco Companies’ Great Northwest Railroad, or by barge, shipped back down the Snake River probably to the Tri-Cities, Washington, for transport by rail or highway through eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

On Thursday, July 17, WIRT unsuccessfully tried to reach by phone Jason Minzghor, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) District 1 operations manager in Coeur d’Alene, because he was curiously in Sandpoint, Idaho.  So, in response to Port of Wilma megaloads on the move, WIRT sent another public records request to ITD director Brian Ness, public involvement coordinator Adam Rush, and Mr. Minzghor, asking for “information about proposals to transport three loads currently parked at the Port of Wilma, Washington, on any highway, street, or rail route in Idaho to Great Falls, Montana, or alternative destinations,” dating back to April 2014 material that ITD refused to acknowledge and release to WIRT.  Please stay alert to movement of these megaloads on regional rivers, roads, or rails, remain prepared for last-minute calls to stage a riverside bon voyage celebration and rally, and share any updates or photos that may quickly arise from this situation. Continue reading

Report & Further Work on the Idaho Week of Actions Against Bomb Trains


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No Idaho Bomb Trains! March & Protest 7-12-14 (July 12, 2014 Spokane and Wild Idaho Rising Tides photos)

Among over fifty coordinated, local, and continent-wide demonstrations against explosive oil trains, dozens of Spokane Rising Tide (SPORT) and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) climate activists from eastern Washington and northern Idaho participated in five events during the Idaho Week of Actions Against Bomb Trains [1, 2].  In the spirit of Big Oil resistance and solidarity with the thousands of frontline communities who live along railroad sacrifice zones across the continent, citizens gathered to honor and commemorate the 47 residents of the still-recovering, devastated town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, who lost their lives when a unit train transporting fracked Bakken shale oil in outdated DOT-111 railcars derailed and exploded on July 6, 2013.  On the  solemn, one-year anniversary of this terrible tragedy, despite dozens of additional oil train disasters, oil-by-rail shipments continue to increase in the U.S. and Canada, and similarly risky tanker cars carry crude Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil around and over northern Idaho lakes, through flammable, forested, mountain valleys, and across the urban core of Spokane, Washington.

On Monday evening, July 7, a dozen people learned and discussed tactics and strategies for staging non-violent civil disobedience on railroad property during the Railroad Direct Action Skill-Share and presentation at the East Bonner County Library in Sandpoint, Idaho.  As part of a series of skill-shares in communities along Northwest coal- and oil-transporting rail lines, Blue Skies Campaign volunteers from Missoula, Montana, talked about their recent experiences and insights drawn from two direct actions on or near train tracks in Helena and Missoula.  Conversations in the library’s Rude Girls Room and later over pizza covered railroad security and law enforcement responses, coal train movements, protest logistical considerations, and opportunities for future, inter-group, regionally coordinated actions.  If you would like to engage in these mostly coal train protests and upcoming conference calls arranging them, please contact WIRT or Blue Skies Campaign.

WIRT participated in the Spokane Rising Tide action, Demand Safer Railcars, at the downtown Spokane office of Washington Republican Congressional Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CMR), beginning at 12 noon on Tuesday, July 8 [3-5].  About a dozen protesters gathered on the North Post Street sidewalk below the fourth floor suite, with props representing an angry mob – cardboard and wooden pitchforks and torches provided by SPORT.  They delivered a great letter written by SPORT’s Terry Hill that sadly could serve as a template for letters to hundreds of other so-called elected officials installed by corrupt industries to ensure their ruthless regimes of continued destruction of the planet and countless lives.  The letter asked how the Congresswoman would protect the safety of her constituents and communities endangered by bomb trains, while she compromises her public interests by taking big campaign contributions from the oil and dirty energy industry and railroad companies.  It requested that she and Congress ensure the security of rail line residents by removing outdated DOT-111 train cars from service.

From within the potential Spokane blast zone of such trains, CMR’s staff members acted congenially, respectfully, and professionally towards the concerned citizens.  They stated that they would forward the letter to CMR, and, when asked by the protesters, promised everyone who left contact information a response specific to their addressed concerns, not the anticipated, vapid, form letter filled with conciliatory comments.  The visitors questioned CMR’s staff about the regularity and accessibility of the Congresswoman’s appearances in Spokane.  The staff members suggested that the group of voters request a “coffee with Cathy” meeting as early as August.  Returning to the street, the comrades energetically repeated five chants that Moscow and Spokane activists devised, hopefully audible in CMR’s office: “Rolling downhill, oil trains kill, 47 slain, no bomb trains!” “Pipelines spill, but bomb trains kill!” “While Cathy takes bribes, bomb trains take lives!” “Big oil bribes, railroad ties, Cathy’s corruption risks our lives!” and “Spokane oil trains, more every day, Cathy’s voters say no way!”  The climate activists then huddled, noticed police entering the building, talked for a while, and dispersed. Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: Herb Goodwin 7-14-14


The Monday, July 14, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes Herb Goodwin, a core WIRT and Occupy Bellingham activist resisting coal export and tar sands megaloads throughout the Northwest.  Herb will talk about the oil industry end run around the U.S. crude oil export ban by eight proposed refineries with 80,000-barrel-per-day production capacities in Montana, North Dakota, and elsewhere.  He will also discuss rapidly emerging megaload assembly plants and transports on the Montana Rocky Mountain Front, which build Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil extraction infrastructure.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as their KRFP DJ.

State Highway Officials Tour Realignment Picked for 95 South of Moscow


Opponents and supporters interact with state highway officials during Moscow visit.

Members of the Idaho Transportation Board toured the state’s preferred route for realignment and expansion of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow on Thursday.

Janice Vassar, the board representative for ITD’s District 2, which includes Moscow and Lewiston, described the view from the chosen route as “spectacular.”

But opponents of the preferred plan were also on hand afterward at an event hosted by the City of Moscow and University of Idaho for the seven-member board.

The final environmental impact statement supporting the choice known as E-2 from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow was sent to the Federal Highway Administration from the Idaho Transportation Department’s environmental office this week.  It was the culmination of an 11-year, court-ordered process. Continue reading

Join the Transporta​tion Board Thursday Tour & Moscow Visit: Final Highway 95 EIS Chose Paradise Ridge Reroute


Palouse Prairie (Alison Meyer photo)

Palouse Prairie (Alison Meyer photo)

Final Highway 95 EIS Chose Paradise Ridge Reroute

After releasing its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for U.S. Highway 95 expansion and rerouting between Thorn Creek Road and Moscow on Tuesday, July 8, “the [Idaho] Transportation Department (ITD) has maintained its preferred route as the eastern path along Paradise Ridge” [1].  The 1200-page FEIS reflects that recommendation, which does not ensure that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will select the E-2 Paradise Ridge alternative for the reroute.  ITD plans to send copies of the FEIS to the FHWA district office and the environmental section of the ITD headquarters office, both in Boise.  Those agencies would review the statement and provide comments and feedback over about three weeks.  The FHWA would then submit the FEIS to its legal section in Washington D.C. for review.  The number of technical reports accompanying the statement – addressing citizen and agency concerns over wildlife, groundwater, weather, wind, weeds, and safety – could prolong FHWA legal section analysis to a couple of months, but ITD does not anticipate many questions.  The worst-case scenario for ITD – resubmitting the FEIS in response to this review – would take an estimated week.  When and if the national FHWA office finally approves the FEIS, it would place it in the Federal Register for 30 days, for other agencies to review and make comments.  Most pertinent federal and state environmental and wildlife agencies have previously advised against the E-2 route.  After this feedback, ITD would issue the record of decision (ROD), a separate document in response to federal agency comments, which would state FHWA’s route alignment selection, summarize the entire process, and undergo a FHWA review before it signs off on the ROD.  At that point, the final design phase and right-of-way plans for the new highway section would begin.  ITD has about $20 million in federal funding shifted to each of the fiscal years of 2016 and 2017 for construction.  ITD’s “very aggressive, but doable” plan foresees construction start-up by summer 2016.

​With characteristically disgraceful hubris rivaling that of Idaho’s highest elected officials, ITD has neither publicly responded as promised to the questions of 400 commenters on its draft environmental impact statement nor directly notified them of its FEIS release, as it files another likely inadequate, incomplete, and fraudulent impact statement.  It also has sidestepped citizen attempts to ascertain the project analysis schedule as well as requests for public hearings addressing legitimate citizen charges of blatant dishonesty.  ITD project manager Ken Helm asserts that “he and various consultants have spent the past year addressing each of those concerns and questions, revising technical reports, and creating new ones, in an effort to produce the final environmental impact statement” [1].  But with ITD’s obstinate insistence on the E2 route, the fix is apparently in.  According to a current schedule posted on ITD’s project website, “the FEIS will address public comments, make any corrections, and provide new information…The document will be sent to the FHWA office in Washington D.C. for a legal sufficiency review in August [and September 2014]” [2].  By mid-October 2014, the responsible (?) agencies intend to publish notice in the Federal Register of a 30-day period of FEIS “review by local resource agencies and the public.”  After the review process, ITD will prepare and issue a record of decision in late December 2014, which will require FHWA approval.

Transportation Board Will Visit Port, Highway 95, & Moscow on Thursday

In its typical last-minute manner, ITD distributed an announcement on Tuesday, July 8, that the Idaho Transportation Board will tour the Port of Lewiston, the Highway 95 section proposed for re-routing and expansion south of Moscow, the Intermodal Transit Center in Moscow, and other locations on Thursday, July 10, before holding its regular monthly meeting on Friday, July 11, at the ITD District 1 office at 600 West Prairie Avenue in Coeur d’Alene [3].  The Board will begin its tour of ITD Districts 1 and 2 highways on Thursday at the ITD District 2 office at 2600 Frontage Road in Lewiston.  Departing at 7:50 am, the Board will meet with officials at the Port of Lewiston until 8:30 am, when it will travel north on U.S. Highway 95 to a “vantage point” on Zietler and Cameron Roads, where observers can envision and discuss at 9 am the eastern and central re-routing paths of Highway 95 between Thorn Creek Road and Moscow.  After 15 minutes, the Board tour will travel north to arrive at the Intermodal Transit Center, at the corner of West Sweet Avenue and Railroad Street on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, at 9:25 am and stay until 10:25 am.  Stops north of Moscow include Potlatch, Plummer, and Post Falls, along with overnight accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express in Coeur d’Alene and the Friday Board meeting of unknown schedule at the District 1 office. Continue reading

U.S. 95 Reroute May Be Crawling Closer


Final environmental impact statement submitted

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is one step closer to beginning construction on a proposed reroute of U.S. Highway 95 to Moscow, after submitting its final environmental impact statement to the Federal Highway Administration on Tuesday.

“As we speak, the printer is running upstairs,” Kenneth Helm, project manager, said Tuesday.  “It’s almost a 1,200-page document.  That’s just the (final environmental impact statement), that’s not the tech reports.”

The final environmental impact statement is the transportation department’s most recent milestone in the more than decade-long effort to expand Highway 95 between Lewiston and Moscow to four divided lanes, said Helm, who works at the department’s District 2 office in Lewiston.  The department was required to conduct the environmental impact analysis after a federal judge sided with the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, a group of Moscow residents, in a 2003 injunction that halted construction north of Thorncreek Road to Moscow.

“This is what I consider a huge milestone in the project,” Helm said.  “We’re not there yet, but this is the next big jump.”

Helm said he planned to send copies on Tuesday of the final environmental impact statement to the Federal Highway Administration district office in Boise, as well as to the environmental section of the Idaho Transportation Department headquarters office.  He anticipated that they would take about three weeks to review the statement and provide comments and feedback. Continue reading