WIRT Newsletter: A Month of Megaload News!


WIRT Monthly Meeting & Movie (Thursday, March 21)

As always, climate activism requires ongoing vigilance of industry and government actions and involvement in collective, local efforts to confront the corruption and pollution of fossil fuel energy development and its state and federal facilitation.  Between the March 4 anniversary of Cass’, Jeanne’s, Jim’s, and Pat’s courageous tar sands megaload blockade (YOU ROCK!) and our second annual celebration of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), we hope that you and all WIRT activists will join us at our next third Thursday monthly meeting, at 7 pm on March 21 at The Attic (up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow).  For voluntary donations (we paid $50 for the film and promotional materials), we will publicly screen the British climate activism documentary Just Do It: A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws, in which Emily James follows daring climate action troublemakers over a year, as they blockade and confront factories, coal power stations, and international banks, despite threats of arrest.  After the movie, we will plan the annual WIRT party and upcoming megaload, fracking, coal, and tar sands protests.


Idle No More World Day of Action Idaho Solidarity (January 27)

Thanks to the difficult, ongoing, behind-the-scenes work of our allies who provided logistical information in December, WIRT staged a great Idle No More solidarity rally on Sunday, January 27.  A few dozen WIRT activists bundled against the relatively mild Idaho/Washington winter, carpooled, and gathered at the Port of Wilma on the Snake River, expecting to encounter two Bantrel/ConocoPhillips tar sands megaloads offloading and staging in the port yards.  Instead, the haulers were late again and/or avoiding us, and we noticed only a few railroad workers, chip trucks, and scores of Canadian geese.  Nevertheless, we are outrageously proud of all of our heroes who foisted protest signs and the WIRT banner, marched, stood, chanted “Shut Down Tar Sands!”, and composed and sang revised lyrics to Down by the Riverside (“We’re gonna protest those megaloads…Down by the riverside…We’re gonna stand for a cleaner world… Ain’t gonna bow to greed no more!”).  Thanks to everyone who participated in showing our solidarity with indigenous allies opposing the devastation wrought by tar sands development across the continent.  We apologize for posting so late the resulting videos and photos gleaned from about 200 shots: the last few months have been hectic, due to various overlapping campaigns.

Bantrel/ConocoPhillips Evaporator Monitoring on Highway 12 (January 30)

A week before a favorable federal court decision, WIRT activists did not want to miss our seemingly final chance in late January to personally and directly defend the Big Wild and its Wild and Scenic Rivers from tar sands megaloads and resulting climate change.  Two Mammoet-hauled ConocoPhillips wastewater evaporators, each weighing 255,600 pounds and measuring 20 feet (two stories) tall, 16 feet (1 1/2 lanes) wide, and 141 feet (1 1/2 basketball courts) long with trucks and trailers, slithered up Highway 12 on January 30 through February 3.

WIRT activists accomplished an effective night of monitoring the initial transport but, besides plenty of audio notes, we could only obtain a few clear megaload photos with a cell phone in motion.  Waiting at a flagger station in north Lewiston, we were the first to encounter the implement of watershed and planetary annihilation after it entered Idaho, draped with a cloth banner boasting “Made in U.S.A.” on its mid-section.  (Because the phallic module fostered a few Oregon jobs, we should let it ream the Athabasca and regional wild and scenic rivers?)

As we followed the industrial circus, we passed sporadic, oncoming vehicles forced to the side of the road without a flagger.  We leap-frogged the evaporator and the more numerous than usual convoy vehicles several times without much reproach.  When an Idaho state trooper pulled us over near Greer, we were delighted (for a change!): The interaction likely informed the entire familiar entourage of Mammoet and Mountain West Holding Company holdovers from the Highway 95 Imperial Oil transports that arrested core WIRT activists were scrutinizing their every move.

After passing the convoy a few times, we drove slowly (as a moving blockade?) in front of the glaring procession of dozens of flashing lights within the river canyon cliffs, while impatient convoy truck drivers followed us too closely.  We kept the pressure on almost to Lowell, where tears overcame watching the hubristic interlopers continue deep into the wild, beloved Lochsa valley in the dark and quiet, early morning hours.  The WIRT website hosts photos and articles about this dirty energy invasion.

Heavy Oil and SAGD Solutions (2013 General Electric Company)

Searching for images of tar sands mining equipment similar to the recent ConocoPhillips megaloads on Highway 12, we found this General Electric photo with the caption “Heavy Oil and SAGD Solutions: GE technologies support higher-efficiency steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) systems, which require injection of 100 percent quality steam into wells.”  Were the transports carried by Mammoet steam generators that ultimately melt underground tar sands or wastewater evaporators that separate the subsequent slurry?

Canadian Oil Sands: ConocoPhillips Surmont Facility (November 23, 2009 Energy Tomorrow)

At the Surmont tar sands extraction facilities southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, ConocoPhillips will access tar sands too deep for strip mining by using recent Highway 12 megaloads in steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) of deposits.

Big-Rig Wreck Shuts Down Highway, Requires Cranes for Clean-Up (February 6 Billing Gazette)

Near Roundup, about 50 miles north of Billings, Montana, a megaload “accident happened early Tuesday, when the semi drifted too close to the edge of the highway, and its tires caught the soft shoulder…The truck tipped and spilled its load into the ditch.”  We have unsuccessfully searched for photos and videos of this wreck that occurred the day before the Boise hearing about similar huge transports, both events ironically involving different stretches of Highway 12.  Activists working to mobilize our Montana comrades into the roads could not help but wonder if the toppled shipment was one of the tar sands equipment modules manufactured in Billings and transported up the middle of Montana, as described in the second following reposted article.  Proving the absurdity of hauling these top-heavy, unwieldy megaloads not only on riverside, mountainous highways in harsh winter weather but on any route, this careless maneuver could have also happened on Highways 12 or 95 in Idaho.  WIRT is seeking Montana transportation/state police department public records about this incident.

Oil Sands Modules En Route to Canada (October 7, 2012 Missoulian)

Idaho Rivers United Highway 12 Megaload Hearing (February 6)

Long after two oil companies barged 38 tar sands megaloads up the Columbia and Snake rivers in 2010, to save on transportation costs to Alberta and exploit the lax regulations, permits, and fees of Montana and Idaho, a Montana lawsuit stopped them from using Highway 12 and forced them to use other routes.  Despite another four court cases in Idaho and relentless protests in Moscow, Spokane, Lewiston, and Missoula, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has allowed multinational corporations to send one or two oversized/overlegal loads at a time, of a total of 37, up Highway 12 since February 1, 2011.

Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other direct action groups have continued to fight Big Oil’s efforts to use our national and state public resources as a “back door” for mega-shipments of tar sands mining equipment building the largest industrial project on Earth.  Although many of our allies accept and perhaps inadvertently encourage Northwestern states to expand and maintain corridors for such traffic and permit and escort tar sands infrastructure and supplies with taxpayer funds on regional rivers, highways, and interstates beyond Highway 12, Idaho Rivers United and Advocates for the West have continued their quest to free the wild and scenic Middle Fork Clearwater/Lochsa River corridor from mega-industrial loads.

On Wednesday, February 6, activists of Fighting Goliath, Friends of the Clearwater, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide from the Boise area and north central Idaho attended a federal court hearing in Boise.  Advocates for the West argued on behalf of Idaho Rivers United that the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have the authority but failed to intervene when ITD issued permits for road-blocking megaloads within the wild and scenic river corridor surrounding Highway 12 in Idaho.  Late on Thursday, February 7, Judge B. Lynn Winmill granted a favorable decision, affirming that the federal government failed to protect the natural and other characteristics of this corridor.  Losing this case, the Forest Service and FHWA can file an appeal of the ruling within 60 days, by April 6.  Further conservationist lawsuits to provoke Forest Service/FHWA enforcement of protective federal designations and easement agreements with the state will likely be necessary to curtail megaloads on Highway 12.

Federal Judge: Forest Service Has Authority to Regulate Megaloads (February 7 Idaho Rivers United)  This link includes Judge Winmill’s ruling and judgement.

The Mega-Myth about Mega-Loads (February 6 Boise Weekly)

IRU Lawsuit: Federal Judge Rules Forest Service Has Megaload Jurisdiction on U.S. Highway 12 (February 8 KRFP Evening Report)

Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis Discusses Recent Victory in U.S. Highway 12 Megaload Lawsuit (February 11 KRFP Climate Justice Forum)

Environmentalists, Feds Spar over Megaloads on Highway 12 (February 6 Missoulian)

A Big Victory against the Megaloads (February 10 Missoulian)

If Not Industrial Corridor’s Demise, Something Close (February 14 Lewiston Tribune)

Wildfires in Idaho (September 18, 2012 NASA)

Wild Idaho Rising Tide is tempering our elation over this victory with remembrances of climate activists’ endless protests, arrests, and anguish over regional abandonment of Highways 95 and 395 and Interstates 15 and 90 as megaload onslaught sacrifice zones facilitating the desecration of First Nations’ waters, lands, health, and life ways.  We are again confronting corporate cronies at the Port of Lewiston and ITD, who want to expand the port and shift an emerging international industrial corridor, Highway 95, closer to the last one percent of extremely rare native Palouse Prairie habitat.  (Please see the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) website and the Highway 95 Re-Route section of the WIRT website.)  We recently learned that port officials are also courting Bakken oil field developers to haul supply equipment through our idyllic but endangered countryside.  Although contention about this highway project has been simmering for over a decade, long before megaloads arrived and PRDC forced ITD to do a more thorough re-routing analysis, Judge Winmill’s Highway 12 ruling undeniably refocuses the crosshairs of megaload passage between the three Lewiston area ports and the northern interior of the continent from Highway 12 to Moscow and Highway 95.  When will Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana citizens together stop this fossil fuel energy development madness, unacceptable on ANY road or river?!

To emphasize our concerns for the impacts of this potential scenario on the people and places affected by distant extraction ventures that debauch our global climate AND regional wildlands, we offer the following satellite image depicting the looming consequences of the 350-plus megaloads that crossed northern Idaho in 2011-12.  We will never forget the numerous wildfires of climate hell that raged in central Idaho by mid-September 2012, only three months after the last Imperial Oil convoys rolled through Spokane.  “More than 1,529,715 acres…burned in Idaho – more than any other state in the nation,…in what has proven to be one of the most severe wildfire seasons in the last decade…Smoke lingered within steep valleys throughout the region, and numerous thick plumes of smoke streamed east toward Montana.”  The arrows in the photograph point to the convergence of the Selway River and Meadow Creek, near the heart of secluded coastal disjunct plant communities challenged, like the vast, surrounding wildlands complex, by accelerating, climate change-influenced fires and altered weather conditions.

Kearl Oilsands Mine Cost Jumps $2 Billion (February 1 Calgary Herald)

No matter how diverse our motivations, our regional resistance has collectively, at least partially, prevailed against the consistent corporate/government denial of the fiscal and physical recklessness of megaload transportation projects.  WIRT is deeply grateful for our committed frontline activists and everyone who has encouraged and supported us, as we used every imaginable tactic to halt this tar sands tentacle and ultimately succeeded with our allies in greatly increasing Imperial Oil expenses!

“Imperial said Friday the cost overruns were mainly driven by the two years of transportation headaches it had while trying to move Korean-built plant modules through Idaho and Montana…Delays in moving the modules to Canada were blamed in part for $2 billion in cost overruns…This is up ten percent from the prior estimate of $6.20 per barrel, driven by the cost to re-sequence work from the module transportation issues…Spokesman Pius Rolheiser said he can’t be specific about how much the module issue added to costs, but ‘it would be accurate to say this was the largest factor in the upward cost revision.’”

Imperial Boosts Kearl Oil-Sands Costs to $12.9 Billion (February 1 Bloomberg)

This similar article also mentions WIRT and allies…not by name, but by results!  “The increased costs are due to issues transporting heavy equipment to the site in Alberta and ‘harsh weather’ as startup began…Weather added to Kearl’s delays after the company was forced to re-route hundreds of South Korean-built modules through Montana and Idaho because of protests by local residents.”

March Replaced as CEO of Imperial Oil (February 21 Calgary Herald)

“Analysts speculated that it’s not coincidental that the [personnel] change is being made so soon after Imperial said that its 110,000-barrel-per-day Kearl oilsands mine would cost $12.9 billion, up from the $10.9-billion revised estimate made just 22 months ago.  The overrun was blamed on aggressive opposition from residents that resulted in delays in securing permits to move oversized Korean-built Kearl equipment modules across Idaho and Montana…‘We wonder whether Mr. March’s departure from Imperial Oil is related to the cost overruns at Kearl.’”

Montana House Bill 513 Would Exempt Megaloads from MEPA

This legislation would exempt oversize load permits from the Montana Environmental Policy Act, the very law that Missoula County and three conservation groups wielded in a court case that dissuaded ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil megaload use of Highways 12, 87, and 200.  WIRT thanks Tom Hansen for compiling converted, edited, and posted audio recordings of the entire public hearing and committee discussion conducted by the Montana House Transportation Committee on February 22.  Please also see the following copy of House Bill 513 and a High Country News article briefly explaining legislative backlash to megaload opposition in Montana.

Part 1, Public Hearing on Montana HB 513 – February 22, 2013

Part 2, Public Hearing on Montana HB 513 – February 22, 2013

Part 3, Public Hearing on Montana HB 513 – February 22, 2013

Part 4, Public Hearing on Montana HB 513 – February 22, 2013

Montana House Bill 513 (Montana Legislature)

Delayed Gratification (February 21 High Country News)

Idaho Senate Bill 1117 Would Allow Heavier Trucks on Idaho Highways

Please contact your Idaho senators and representatives and ask them to vote against Idaho Senate Bill 1117, which would raise the current weight limits of over-length semi-trucks from 105,500 pounds to 129,000 pounds and routinely allow such vehicles to endanger traveler lives and pummel already crumbling, narrow, and winding north Idaho highways.  Proposed by the regional forest products industry, the bill has passed out of its legislative committee, where Alan Frew of ITD said in a hearing that his department would permit such highway uses “in conjunction with the local jurisdictions having authority over those highways…We don’t anticipate having additional costs, personnel costs, or costs for analysis to complete this…We don’t allow their operation on narrow, winding roads, because they have a tendency to cross the center line or cross the fog line.”  But, while accommodating megaloads on Highways 12 and 95, ITD has not collaborated with Forest Service and other authorities, has incurred heavy administrative costs (not to mention undisclosed maintenance costs), and has allowed huge transports on narrow, winding roads.  Perhaps, inspired by their Montana counterparts, Idaho legislators are just more covertly greasing the skids for looming megaloads…

Idaho Senate Bill 1117 (Idaho Legislature)

Area Truckers Say Proposal is Unsafe (February 25 Lewiston Tribune)

Heavy-Trucks Debate: ‘It Scares Me to Death’ (February 28 Spokesman Review)

Extra-Big Trucks Get Approval of Panel (March 1 Spokesman Review)

What is This? Captured in Russia 2012 (March 4 video)

Apparently hydraulically powered and propelled, like the trailers at the Port of Lewiston that offloaded megaloads from barges, this Russian shipment puts regional transports to shame!  It is difficult to see the joy stick among the brashly crazy men riding the load, far less concerned than Northern American/European haulers.  Strains of Yes, It Was Love play in the videotaping, pulled-over vehicle.

PLEASE SUPPORT our ongoing work to speak (and act upon!) truth to power, wherever we find opportunities to confront the fossil fuel industry, energy policy-challenged governments, and over-consumptive, complacent citizens.

In steadfast solidarity and sincere gratitude,

Wild Idaho Rising Tide

P.O. Box 9817, Moscow, Idaho 83843

WildIdahoRisingTide.org & on facebook


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