Commissioners Pass Gas and Oil Ordinance with Amendments

New ordinance reduces 500 foot setback

Payette County Commissioners passed a gas and oil drilling ordinance after a public hearing on Monday at the courthouse.

They heard testimony from Payette County residents, who mostly said the ordinance needed to expand the setback from 200 feet in the new proposed ordinance to the 500 feet that it had been in the previous ordinance.

Several testified that a neighbor who signs a lease allowing drilling to be done on his or her property would force another neighbor to endure the drilling, despite their possible refusal to sign a lease.  They said that 200 feet is not an adequate distance.

New Plymouth resident Tina Fisher said that if one neighbor signs a lease but the other neighbor doesn’t want to, it is unfair to that neighbor.  “Two-hundred feet is woefully inadequate,” Fisher said. Continue reading

Idaho, Feds at Odds on Megaloads

State ready to issue permit; U.S. Forest Service applies the brakes, says study and tribal advice needed

At the request of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), the U.S. Forest Service is revising one of its interim criteria designed to define and govern the transport of megaloads through national forest land.

But the change won’t make it any easier for the massively oversized shipments to win approval for travel along U.S. Highway 12 as it passes through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and its Wild and Scenic River corridors.

The Forest Service is also asking to review megaload applications before permits are awarded by the state and is taking issue with the state’s insistence that it lacks authority to deny the permits.

In February, federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled the Forest Service has authority to review megaload shipments that cross national forest land and pass through the Lochsa and Middle Fork of the Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor. Continue reading

Smoke Ranch Well Protest

Gas Well with Bluffs

As oil and gas drilling resumed in Payette County this month after a few years, Alta Mesa Services raised a derrick at the Smoke Ranch natural gas well on June 9 [1].  This directionally drilled well – the focus of the intensive Stop the Frack Attack! campaign of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE) during June – embodies the myriad infringements of environmental and human health that conventionally-drilled and hydraulically-fractured (“fracked”) oil and gas wells famously impose [2].  The Smoke Ranch well occupies a floodplain, where operators pumped standing water from the well pad before drilling between the Payette River and Big Willow Creek, within a half-mile of a riparian area/wetland wildlife refuge, and only a few miles upstream from the City of Fruitland municipal water intake and the Payette/Snake River confluence.  Its ultimate outcomes could set a precedent for looming drilling/fracking on and under nearby state lands and waters already leased by Alta Mesa and Snake River Oil and Gas.  IRAGE activists have been monitoring the site daily and, along with other information sources in the southwest Idaho region, have observed multitudes of hidden equipment, transport trailers, drill pipes, and well pads awaiting likely escalating utilization, as well as water for Smoke Ranch operations withdrawn from irrigation canals.  They have recently taken unreleased pictures and videos of several Schlumberger tank trucks covered with radioactive warning placards. Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: Mary Ullrich 7-29-13

The Monday, July 29, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) welcomes Mary Ullrich of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition board.  Mary discusses how the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) tried to control public opinion by presenting false information in its guide to the draft environmental impact statement for the Highway 95 Thorn Creek to Moscow reconstruction project.  She also updates listeners on the current status of ITD and federal review and response to public comments and document revisions.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT live at 92.5 FM and online, the show covers continent-wide dirty energy developments and climate activism news, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as his KRFP DJ.

Does Omega Morgan Know a Mega-Secret?

Marty Trillhaase, Editorial Page Editor, Lewiston

The Lewiston Tribune 7/25/13

Riddle us this, Batman: What does Omega Morgan know that everyone else does not?

The transportation company – at no small expense – navigated two megaloads of equipment manufactured by Ellett Industries up the Columbia and Snake rivers to the Port of Wilma – in anticipation of moving them up U.S. Highway 12 toward the Alberta tar sands.

Which, says Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell, “is setting us up for a showdown.”

But over what?

If anyone can see any flexibility in Brazell’s recent policy closing U.S. 12 to megaload traffic, please enlighten us.

His authority is rock solid.  It comes from U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

So is Brazell’s mandate.  That flows through the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Continue reading

Omega No More Again

Omega Morgan Megaloads FOC 5 7-22-13

Over the July 20-21 weekend, while climate activists from around the continent concluded the Rising Tide Continental Gathering at a remote Utah desert encampment, regional allies observed gigantic, spaceship-like megaloads traveling by barge up the Columbia and Snake rivers [1].  Manufactured for destructive Alberta tar sands extraction, weighing more than 600,000 pounds and measuring up to 255 feet long, 23 feet tall, and 21 feet wide on specialized trailers, two of at least ten large, cylindrical, pressure vessels arrived and offloaded at the Port of Wilma, Washington, near Lewiston, Idaho, late on Monday afternoon, July 22.  Heavy-haul company Omega Morgan has submitted a revised transportation plan seeking Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) permits for moving these wastewater evaporators across Idaho to Montana on U.S. Highway 12 [2].

But in an early February ruling in response to an Idaho Rivers United lawsuit argued by Advocates for the West, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise upheld Forest Service (USFS) authority to review state approval of megaload shipments that would traverse the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and the Lochsa/Middle Fork of the Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridors [3].  In his June 17, 2013, letter to ITD, Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell suggested interim megaload definitions and USFS approval criteria: Oversized loads should not require traffic to be fully stopped, the roadway or adjacent vegetation to be physically modified, or take longer than 12 hours to cross forest/river lands [4]. Continue reading

Controversial Megaloads Pay Dividends

An evaporator sits idle at the Port of Wilma in Clarkston after arriving by barge. The equipment bound for Alberta will be used to recycle steam for processing tar sands (Lewiston Tribune/Kyle Mills photo).

Industry touts ability of evaporators docked at Port of Wilma to create jobs, conserve resources.

Two megaloads sitting at the Port of Wilma are creating work for Americans and are destined to help an oil company conserve water.

The evaporators were manufactured by Ellett Industries near Vancouver, Canada, which purchased more than $2.5 million in American materials for the project, said Bob Gill, vice president of sales for the company.

American tug boat companies handled the shipments after they entered U.S. waters just south of Vancouver, and the equipment was barged up the Columbia and Snake rivers, Gill said.

The insulation for one of the evaporators is being installed at the Port of Wilma, Gill said, a task that will employ about ten people for two to three weeks. Continue reading

Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis Reacts to Positioning of Tar Sands Megaloads at Port of Wilma

Between 23:55 and 10:37 of the July 23, 2013, Evening Report, Idaho Rivers United, KRFP Radio Free Moscow interviews Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis about the possible implications of discrepancies between Forest Service authority and interim criteria to regulate megaload traffic through the Highway 12 wild and scenic river corridor and the arrival and push to move two Omega Morgan-hauled evaporators through the wildlands-surrounded route to Alberta tar sands mining operations.

Another Megaload May Be Alberta-Bound

Company may be going through Port of [Wilma] Whitman County; No permits issued yet

Permit or not, a megaload may be headed to the Port of Whitman County for eventual shipment over U.S. Highway 12.

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said he has received dozens of emails with pictures of a barge laden with a pressure vessel making its way up the Columbia River.  He also spoke with Mark Rey, a former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who is working for Omega Morgan, and said the shipments will dock in Washington instead of Idaho.

“They are apparently coming, and they are coming into (the Port of Whitman County) and not Lewiston,” he said.

Two large cylindrical vessels were parked at the Port of Wilma Monday night, though it was unknown if they were megaloads awaiting transport.

The shipping company Omega Morgan wants to move as many as ten pressure vessels – equipment used to extract oil from the Canadian tar sands – from the port to a project area in Alberta.  But it would first need a permit from the Idaho Transportation Department to use the highway and approval from the Forest Service to pass through the Wild and Scenic River Corridor. Continue reading

Omega Morgan Megaloads Arrive at Port of Wilma, Prompting Talk of Showdown with Forest Service

KRFP Radio Free Moscow interviews Fighting Goliath organizer Borg Hendrickson between 22:53 and 7:03 of the July 22, 2013, Evening Report, Omega Morgan Loads at Wilma.  Borg talks about the plans, impacts, and possible accidents of megaload owners and transporters seeking to transform the Highway 12 wild and scenic river corridor into an industrial route for Alberta tar sands equipment, and the looming showdown between hauler Omega Morgan, the Idaho Transportation Department, and the Forest Service and Nez Perce Tribe, over evaporators offloaded at the Port of Wilma on Monday, July 22.