The Megaload Corridor Was Just Sealed Shut

Marty Trillhaase, Editorial Page Editor, Lewiston

The Lewiston Tribune 6/30/13

Topography and weather blocked ExxonMobil’s grand plan for a fleet of 200 megaloads following a well-coordinated timetable toward the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, along U.S. Highway 12.

Winter and tight corners along the river corridor meant only a test load reached the Montana state line – days later than planned – only to be stopped by legal hurdles on the other side.

Loads piled up at the Port of Lewiston until they were cut down to sizes capable of clearing interstate highway overpasses and sent on their way north along U.S. Highway 95.

Left in limbo, however, was the fate of the occasional megaload.

Ruling in favor of Idaho Rivers United, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill last winter ruled that the U.S. Forest Service is obligated to exercise jurisdiction over any megaload seeking to traverse the Wild and Scenic River corridor along Highway 12. Continue reading

Protesters Cited for Railroad Bridge Trespassing during Fearless Summer Rally

In solidarity with grassroots organizations across the country, Rising Tide and allied groups throughout the Northwest organized region-wide direct actions for the Fearless Summer Escalating Week of Action during June 24 to 29 [1].  In Coeur d’Alene, Missoula, Portland, Seattle, and Spokane on June 25, 27, and 28, climate activists protested extreme energy extraction, transportation, and combustion through coordinated demonstrations confronting dirty energy industrial projects including Northwest coal mining, hauling, and burning [2-5].

Like citizens in the Northwest and beyond, activists and allies of Occupy Spokane, Spokane Coalition Builders, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) take issue with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) disclosure at a June 18 U.S. House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing [6].  The federal agency stated that it will not undertake a programmatic environmental impact statement considering the broader climate change impacts and the effects of rail transport of coal in its review of three proposed Northwest coal export terminals [7-9].  The Corps has also unjustifiably fast-tracked its environmental assessment of Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific Project plans for the Coyote Island coal export terminal at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon [10].

On behalf of the health and environment of eastern Washingtonians, Idahoans, and Montanans dismissed by the Corps, about two dozen people staged two demonstrations called Fearless Summer: Coal Export Sacrifice Zone Uprising in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington [11-13].  On Thursday, June 27, protesters encountered a deserted Corps regulatory field office in Coeur d’Alene, with a note posted on its door saying that “staff members are working in the field during the afternoon of Thursday, June 27.”  Through photographs, activists nonetheless documented citizen outrage with Corps coal export decisions, before personnel at the private office building expressed their displeasure with their presence.

During evening rush-hour traffic on North Division Street in Spokane on Thursday, June 27, over 20 people gathered for a sign-waving rally denouncing coal export train routes and increased rail traffic through northern Idaho and Spokane.  While most of the participants stood  near the Sprague Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way intersections, two activists walked toward the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad bridge over Division Street near Sprague Avenue, to obtain higher traffic visibility for their protest signs juxtaposed to the loaded coal train cars temporarily stopped on the bridge.  BNSF patrols cited Tony Dellwo and “Ziggy” with second degree criminal trespass [14].  Along with supportive fellow coal export opponents, the defendants will appear in Spokane district court for hearings on July 5 and 11. Continue reading

Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Weekend

Idaho Gas Drill without Margins

In the wake of the Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Week and Month of Actions, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and United Vision for Idaho (UVI) are launching the Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Weekend to conclude an undeniably successful June full of citizen resistance to oil and gas drilling and impending fracking in Idaho [1, 2, 3].  As mercenary natural gas development companies and the colluded state government accelerate pillage of public resources, Idahoans are increasingly confronting politicians and profiteers through actions to protect shared surface, ground, and irrigation waters, wildlife, agriculture, and recreation, air quality and climate, and the subsequent health of current and future generations.

From Coeur d’Alene to Boise, we started the month with statewide protests at six offices of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), the agency charged with permitting oil and gas exploration, extraction, and production in Idaho.  Initially through these WIRT actions and comments, we voiced opposition to IDL leasing of state lands along and under the Payette River for drilling and rallied against an IDL permit sought by Alta Mesa Services (AMS) to drill the Smoke Ranch well in a Payette River island floodplain near a confluence and wildlife refuge, wetlands, prior Native lands, and downstream city water intake.  In response, IDL issued a media counter-release that disclosed that IDL had leased the Payette River Wildlife Management Area for drilling and that it anticipated “small frac jobs” on half of the previously established eleven wells in Payette County.  IDL also inexplicably disregarded and refused to post WIRT’s extensive comments on the AMS permit application, despite their relevance.  Twenty-plus participants in the June 7 protest outside the main IDL office and minerals division during afternoon rush-hour traffic in downtown Boise waved signs and banners, chalked sidewalk notes, and engaged IDL director Tom Schultz in a brief conversation.  Several widely circulated press releases and the WIRT rebuttal to IDL’s counter-release motivated Boise Weekly, Earthworks Earthblog, EcoWatch, and KRFP Radio Free Moscow to cover our extensive demonstrations. Continue reading

Fearless Summer: Coal Export Sacrifice Zone Uprising

Black Thunder Mine, Wright, Wyoming (Associated Press photo)

Since late May, Rising Tide and allied groups across the Northwest have been organizing region-wide direct actions for the Fearless Summer of resistance to extreme energy extraction, transportation, and combustion, starting with the Escalating Week of Action during June 24 to 29.  In Coeur d’Alene/Spokane, Missoula, Portland, and Seattle, climate activists are integrating their messages and images for coordinated demonstrations confronting Northwest coal mining, hauling, and burning on June 25, 27, and 28.  In solidarity with grassroots organizations across the country, regional protests strive to stop some of the worst dirty energy industrial projects in America.

On behalf of the health and environment of Idahoans and Montanans recently dismissed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) at a U.S. House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, June 18, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists and allies will stage a demonstration at the Coeur d’Alene Corps office (2065 West Riverstone Drive) at 3 pm on Thursday, June 27.  Jennifer Moyer of the Corps stated at the hearing that the federal agency will not undertake a programmatic environmental impact statement considering the broader climate change impacts and the effects of rail transport of coal in its review of three proposed Northwest coal export terminals.  WIRT takes issue with Ms. Moyer’s announcement and the Corps’ fast-tracked Morrow Pacific environmental assessment of Ambre Energy’s Boardman, Oregon, port plans.  (See the following links to pertinent videos, articles, and a protest location map.)

Activists in Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington encounter difficulty targeting corporate offices and industrial polluters, because thankfully not many sully the inland Northwest’s more breathable environs.  Nonetheless, like comrades in other Northwest cities and beyond, members of Occupy Spokane, Spokane Coalition Builders, and WIRT will gather in Spokane for a sign-waving rally and biking event denouncing coal export/Bakken shale oil train routes and increased rail traffic through northern Idaho and Spokane.  Participants will meet at 4:30 pm on Thursday, June 27, in the lobby of the Community Building (35 West Main Avenue, Spokane) before standing at the busy, evening rush-hour intersection of North Division Street and East Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  A Spokane bike action may also emerge at 6 pm in High Bridge Park just off West Sunset Boulevard, with people riding trails near train tracks through the west side of Spokane.

Please RSVP to let WIRT know if you can attend any of these events.  Carpools to Coeur d’Alene/Spokane will depart the WIRT Activist House in Moscow, Idaho, at 1 pm on Thursday, June 27, and return by 8 pm that evening.  For further information, email WIRT at or call 208-301-8039.  Before the massive Summer Heat convergence in Portland on Saturday, July 27, co-sponsored by Portland Rising Tide and expanded by representative contingents from across the region, other Fearless Summer actions this week in the Northwest include: Continue reading

Forest Service Brakes on Megaload Request

Proposed 21-foot-wide load would stop traffic, take more than 12 hours, and modify the road or vegetation on U.S. Highway 12

The U.S. Forest Service is advising the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to steer a pending megaload away from the wild and scenic river corridor along U.S. Highway 12, until the state and federal agency develop formal protocols to deal with massively oversized rigs.

The state is considering an application from the transportation company Omega Morgan to move a 255-foot-long and 21-foot-wide water purification vessel weighing 644,000 pounds from the Port of Lewiston to the Idaho/Montana state line near Lolo Pass via the scenic byway.  The narrow, two-lane highway passes through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and travels along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa River, which are both part of the National Wild and Scenic River System.

Earlier this year, federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise ruled the Forest Service has authority to review the state’s approval of megaload shipments that pass through national forest land and in particular those that would affect wild and scenic river corridors.  The agency had argued in court that it lacked such authority.

But the judge didn’t define what a megaload is or say how much authority the agency has over the shipments. Continue reading

WIRT Comments on Alta Mesa Services Application to Drill ML Investments Well 2-10

ML Investments 2-10 Well Site

June 21, 2013

Idaho Department of Lands, Boise Staff Office

P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0050

Director Schultz and IDL staff,

On behalf of over 1500 members of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), I offer these comments concerning the application submitted to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) by Alta Mesa Services (AMS) requesting permits to drill the ML Investments 2-10 well in Payette County, Idaho.  Unlike my previous comments addressing the Alta Mesa Services application to drill the Smoke Ranch 1-21 well, which IDL inexplicably dismissed despite their relevance to the application in question, I request inclusion of these comments in the public record.

WIRT members oppose permitting, drilling, and potential hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the proposed Alta Mesa Resources ML Investments 2-10 well due to the inadequacy and incompleteness of AMS plans submitted for public review.  Considering that additional documents were added to the Smoke Ranch 1-21 well application after the public comment period and before IDL permitting of said application, we request that, if the currently submitted AMS application to drill the ML Investments 2-10 well is modified or augmented in any way, the Idaho Department of Lands re-open the comment period for this application.  We also ask that IDL re-open the comment period for the Smoke Ranch 1-21 well for the same reasons.  Failure to both post revised applications and re-open public review of them violates section 51 of 20.07.02 Rules Governing Oil and Gas Conservation in the State of Idaho. Continue reading

Gas, Oil Regulation on Agenda

Payette County Commissioners set to decide rules for drilling on Monday

Payette County Commissioners are scheduled to make a decision on Monday on a new ordinance regulating gas and oil drilling in the county.

During a public hearing last week, community members told commissioners that the proposed ordinance needed to be more specific about work times, financial assistance from the state, and training for local fire stations.

Snake River Oil and Gas is purchasing mineral rights in Payette and Washington counties for the purpose of drilling for natural gas.  The company has already begun to drill wells in preparation for commercial use.

Company officials have said that all the wells in Idaho were drilled conventionally, without hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”  The wells are similar to a water well, except much deeper and with a lot more cement and steel casing.

The natural gas business has moved into Malheur County, Oregon, as well, with Western Land Services doing seismic testing earlier this year. Continue reading

WIRT Newsletter: WIRT Monthly Meeting, Highway 12 Megaloads

Dear WIRT activists and supporters,

Monthly WIRT Potluck Meeting

We are converging at the Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) Activist House at 7 pm on June 20, as on the third Thursday of every month, for some brainstorming, planning, and potlucking fun.  A few Moscow and Spokane folks have been arranging Fearless Summer events for next week, while WIRT remains immersed in Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! actions and preparations for the Second Tar Sands Solidarity Journey, Rising Tide Continental Gathering, and other endeavors.  WIRT activists will finalize summer plans at this Thursday evening meeting, so we would greatly appreciate your feedback soon about ideas for protests.  Please see the WIRT Events Calendar website page for more information.

Two Omega Morgan Evaporators on Highway 12?

In response to our allies’ requests for information about potential overlegal/oversize equipment shipments on U.S. Highway 12 across Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) released on Friday, June 14, documents that Omega Morgan submitted to ITD in mid-May (Omega Morgan Schematics 6-13, Omega Morgan Traffic Control Plan 6-13, Omega Morgan Haul Route 6-13).  Supporting permit requests to transport two humongous evaporators (“water purification vessels”) from the Port of Lewiston to Sunshine Oilsands near Fort McKay, Alberta, the files describe the schematics, traffic control plan, and haul route and schedule of megaloads that weigh about 644,000 pounds and measure 255 feet long, 23 feet tall, and 21 feet wide.  Omega Morgan of Hillsboro, Oregon, and Red Wolf Traffic Control of Lapwai, Idaho, moved similar loads in October 2013, the first to reach Alberta ground-zero of tar sands exploitation via Highway 12.  Crews expected to transport the evaporators around June 12. Continue reading

Attend Payette County Commission Meeting

Alma Hasse, Payette County

The Argus Observer 6/20/13

On Monday, June 24, at 11 am, the Payette County Board of County Commissioners will be making their decision on the draft oil and gas ordinance before them.

Our Planning and Zoning Commission spent six months working on this ordinance.  They held two public hearings and a by-invitation panel discussion that included Michael Lewis, Director of the Idaho U.S. Geological Survey office, Mark Hilty, Nampa land use attorney, and residents from both Payette and Washington counties.

What the Commissioners learned – contrary to what they had been told by industry – was that they could indeed regulate this industry and that, in Mr. Hilty’s legal opinion, they have an OBLIGATION to do so.  Oil and gas drilling is a heavy industrial activity.  Normally, heavy industrial activities are limited to operating inside areas specifically zoned for heavy industrial use.  Our land use decision makers – both the Planning and Zoning Commission and our Commissioners – have the moral responsibility to enact good, protective ordinances that will protect our greatest resource, our drinking water.  They need to ensure that they have taken EVERY precaution to protect our drinking water aquifers AND our surface waters.  The City of Fruitland gets a lot of its drinking water from the Payette River. Continue reading

Educate Yourselves about Oil and Gas

Tina Fisher, New Plymouth

The Argus Observer 6/20/13

Currently, our Payette County Commissioners are considering a draft oil and gas ordinance.  On Monday, June 24, at 11 am, they will be making a decision on this draft ordinance.  Here are some facts that every resident of Payette County should be aware of and that our Commissioners should be taking into consideration as they debate the merits of this ordinance.

Industry’s own documents show that approximately six percent of all new wells leak immediately and that eventually most, if not all of them, will leak!  I choose to live in New Plymouth because of the quality of my drinking water, clean air, and enjoyable rural lifestyle.  Drilling of gas wells carries with it all of the toxins and pollutants required to “frack” or “chemically stimulate” these wells: many, such as benzene, are cancer-causing.  The produced or flowback water is not only toxic but can be radioactive as well!

These poisons can get into our groundwater – yours, too.  They enter the corn and hay that farmers grow and feed to chickens, cows, pigs, etc.  The eggs you cook for breakfast and the burgers you grill for your family can make you sick.  Ask yourself, “What does rich mean to me?”  If it means healthy bodies, abundant wildlife, beautiful vistas, clean, sweet-smelling air and water, then heed my warning and move to protect your riches.  It’s time to wake up.