2011: Oh, What a Year

Six residents arrested during megaloads protest (Moscow Pullman Daily News photo)

Megaloads and murder lead our list of the top stories this past year on the Palouse. Each editor and reporter had other stories they would have put on the list. So If you disagree with our choices, let us know.


1. Megaloads

What started as a debate about the wisdom of running huge loads of oil field equipment up a two-lane road beside a pristine river, suddenly shifted aim mid-year. ExxonMobil decided that if it couldn’t run the loads up Highway 12, it would cut them in half and send them through Moscow to Interstate 90. Protests and accidents occurred as debate evolved from highway safety over the Alberta Oil Sands project, where the loads were headed.

(By Lee Rozen, Managing Editor, Moscow-Pullman Daily News)

Obvious Safety Violations

Vince Murray, Moscow

The Lewiston Tribune 12/30/11

“Safety” is a buzzword that surfaces frequently when Idaho Transportation Department or city officials talk about “megaload” protests, something with which I think everyone can agree, yet this buzzword doesn’t seem to apply to the shippers of these loads.

Recently, these shipments led directly to a second accident on Highway 95. No one was severely injured, but given that ExxonMobil hopes to transport many more loads on our local highways, the odds increase that someone might be in the future. Continue reading

Update 2011: Smaller ‘Megaloads’ Roll in Montana as Cases Proceed in Court

Lin Laughy of Fighting Goliath says that New York Times writer Keith Schneider, who travels the world and speaks to audiences about energy issues, sees the Northwest/Northern Rockies tar sands transportation invasion as a major national story as the massive amount of transports starting to move to Alberta will soon dwarf ExxonMobil’s originally proposed 207 megaloads.

Update 2011: Smaller ‘Megaloads’ Roll in Montana as Cases Proceed in Court

(By Kim Briggeman, Missoulian)

(Link provided by Linwood Laughy)

Signs of Intelligent Life in the Murdoch Universe (Air Pollution Dumbs Down Americans)

A national health catastrophe advanced by the federal/corporate dirty energy/economic agenda that defies public opinion, climate science, and 2,000 medical studies over the last decade: Traffic fumes impact brain activity (behavior, personality, decision-making), intellectual capacity (four points lower on IQ tests, memory and reasoning problems), emotional stability (anxiety, depression, and attention problems), and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, autism) at every stage of life (including permanent, prenatal chromosome changes) and thus degrade the quality of life of present and subsequent generations.

Signs of Intelligent Life in the Murdoch Universe

(Link provided by Borg Hendrickson)

Unflagged Highway 95 Pullover for Megaload Passage 12-21-11

On Winter Solstice, December 21, seven concerned citizens monitored the first movements of three ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil tar sands megaloads since one of them hit a private mini-van pulled over by flaggers along Highway 95 at the staging area just south of Moscow, Idaho, on December 6.  As two observers traveled south on the dark, narrow, rural highway toward Potlatch, an oncoming pilot car driver ordered us to pull over onto the road shoulder to let one of these two-lane-wide transports and its convoy approach and pass within a few feet of our vehicle.

Natural Gas Industry Seeks Local Support in Idaho

The natural gas industry claims that Idaho has unique geology that won't need intense fracking and describes its proposed drilling as similar to domestic water well drilling (Idaho Petroleum Council diagram).

BOISE, Idaho — When the Idaho Legislature meets in 2012, it will be asked to approve new regulations for the natural gas industry. Bridge Resources and now Snake River Oil and Gas believe there is a significant amount of natural gas in Idaho.

The natural gas industry in Idaho renewed efforts this month to gain support for drilling. It hopes to start drilling soon, once the state approves regulations and local governments give the go-ahead.

Read more and view a video of Governor Butch Otter, president of the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, responsible for recent administrative approval of the new Rules Governing Conservation of Crude Oil and Natural Gas in the State of Idaho:

Natural Gas Industry Seeks Local Support in Idaho

(By Boise State Public Radio/Idaho Public Television)

Chaney Criticizes ITD and ISP for Allowing Tar Sands Shipments during Holidays & Imperial Oil Announces Second Phase of Kearl Oil Sands Development in Alberta

Latah County Sheriff deputies received a $4000 check from a project manager of Mammoet, the hauler transporting Imperial Oil megaloads through Idaho to the Alberta tar sands.  The reimbursement covers police costs for escorting the modules on Highway 95 and patrolling protests in downtown Moscow between July 15 and November 1, 2011.  Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney wrote a letter to the Idaho transportation department and state police stating her displeasure with megaloads traveling during the holidays and thus diverting law enforcement attention away from intoxicated drivers, especially after Moscow Police Chief David Duke said last week that shipments would be suspended until mid-January.  Imperial Oil declared on Wednesday that the first phase of its Kearl Oil Sands assembly of megaloads into a bitumen extraction plant starting production next year is 80 percent complete.  The company plans to spend $8.6 billion expanding the second phase of its operations that could produce 110,000 barrels of oil per day in 2015.  Please listen to Chaney Criticizes ITD and ISP for Allowing Tar Sands Shipments during Holidays and Imperial Oil Announces Second Phase of Kearl Oil Sands Development in Alberta between 17:08 and 11:50 of the KRFP Radio Free Moscow Evening Report, Imperial to Double Tar Sands Strip Mines, on Wednesday, December 21, at http://radiofreemoscow.org/2011/12/20111221-2/.

Imperial Oil Announces $8.6 Billion Expansion of Kearl Oil Fields

CALGARY, Alberta – Imperial Oil Ltd. said Wednesday it will go ahead with an  $8.9 billion Canadian (US$8.6 billion) expansion to its Kearl oil sands mine in  Alberta.

The Calgary-based oil producer and refiner said the second phase of the  project is slated to begin producing 110,000 barrels of oil per day by late  2015.

Read more: Imperial Oil Announces $8.6 Billion Expansion of Kearl Oil Fields

(The Associated Press, Missoulian)

Another Dent, Another Dollar, Another Demonstration

The ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil tar sands upgrader plant component that hit a private vehicle pulled over by flaggers for megaload passage south of Moscow on Tuesday, December 6 (Jeanne McHale photo).

As North America turns back toward the sun with the Winter Solstice at 9:30 pm on Wednesday, December 21, concerned citizens and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists turn our sights away from the dirty oil, coal, and gas we collectively dig from the ground toward the abundant energy that fills our skies with light, wind, and residual carbon.  Please join us for a mass exercise of our First Amendment rights to re-envision and re-empower our material and political lives as we confront the corporate power, government complicity, and industrial forces that threaten life on our home planet.

The tar sands are America’s dirty secret and the reason that Canada has abandoned the Kyoto Protocol.  We consume 97 percent of the “oil” produced by assembled megaloads and accompanying energy- and water-intensive processes amidst 250 square miles of a denuded First Nations boreal forest wetland.  Idaho may be the first sacrifice zone of Big Oil expanding transportation to and from the tar sands to world energy markets.  Its wildness should make it the weakest link: Rise up, tough Idahoans, or watch your forests burn! Continue reading

Moscow Mayor Unhappy over Holiday Megaloads

City dealing with confusion over Mammoet’s holiday plans

Scheduling confusion in Moscow over shipments of Imperial Oil refinery modules through the city tonight led Mayor Nancy Chaney to issue a letter Tuesday to the Idaho State Police and transportation department chastising the agencies.

It had been Moscow Police Chief David Duke’s understanding last week that contract hauler Mammoet was suspending shipments for the holidays until mid-January, but ISP informed him Monday two loads would come through the city tonight. Continue reading