Defenders of our most vital shared resource (air),
TAR SANDS MEGALOADS UPDATE
On Thursday, October 24, Resources Conservation Company International (RCCI) withdrew its U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals request for a stay pending appeal of federal Judge Winmill’s preliminary injunction and its emergency appeal to transport Alberta tar sands fracking equipment through Nez Perce and public lands and wild and scenic river corridors along Highway 12 in Idaho. We offer our admiration and congratulations to everyone who worked so diligently on this federal lawsuit and the accompanying grassroots battles to block RCCI transports on Highway 12, especially Nez Perce Tribe attorneys Mike Lopez and Dave Cummings, the Advocates for the West legal team, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee members, Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater, Fighting Goliath, and Nez Perce, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), Moscow, and Missoula activists. As one WIRT associate exclaimed, “The world needs more committed environmental warriors like you!” We appreciate that fossil fuel extraction companies have again reassessed their transportation project feasibility and abandoned Highway 12 as a possible route for overlegal industrial equipment, and that recent cooperation among the Nez Perce Tribe and several regional groups has impeded Omega Morgan passage.
Considering that ANY megaload imposes impacts on the national forest wildlands, wild and scenic river corridors, and Nez Perce homelands and treaty rights, which the Forest Service is studying in consultation with the Nez Perce Tribe, Judge Winmill’s preliminary injunction should hold for all such traffic and subsequent impacts until the study is complete. But for now it applies only to Omega Morgan megaloads hauled only on Highway 12, not to other companies on that route, or to Omega Morgan transports on other highways, or to smaller fossil fuel processing modules that may not be considered “megaloads.” Before RCCI pulled its appeals court case last week, our allies clarified our understanding of Judge Winmill’s September 12 decision and the Forest Service’s subsequent September 17 closure of U.S. Highway 12.
Judge Winmill granted a preliminary injunction and ordered the Forest Service to issue a closure order that 1) blocks any Omega Morgan megaload on Highway 12 between mileposts 74 and 174, through the wild and scenic river/national forest corridor, and 2) remains in place until the Forest Service has conducted its corridor review and consulted with the Nez Perce Tribe. The Forest Service closure order, immediately effective until rescinded by the Forest Service, prohibits any Omega Morgan 1) vehicle over 16 feet wide or 150 feet long, 2) overlegal vehicle that requires longer than 12 hours to travel this portion of Highway 12, and 3) vehicle that requires roadway or adjacent vegetation modification for passage. The Forest Service will probably not tighten these megaload restrictions anytime soon. But if another company applied for a Highway 12 overlegal permit, allies would swiftly seek a similar temporary injunction. Moreover, even if stranded evaporator owner RCCI had persuaded the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Judge Winmill’s preliminary injunction, the Forest Service closure order could have remained in force. At this point, WIRT and all of our allies can only hope that Judge Winmill would extend a permanent injunction or that the Forest Service would institute a perpetual closure order for all Highway 12 megaloads in Idaho, when the multitude of intrinsic and cultural values of this internationally treasured route emerges from further analysis. Continue reading