As promised, about 20 protesters gathered on a toe-numbing Sunday night and waited for the first of three “megaloads” to leave the Port of Umatilla, hauling massive refinery equipment into the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.
Yet the shipment never budged, sitting under towering floodlights, while workers with the Hillsboro-based Omega Morgan continued to prepare the oversized transport for its first leg south through Hermiston and east into Pendleton.
Climate activists oppose providing a route on Oregon highways for a vessel they said will contribute to increased carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. Jim Powers of Albany also said the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) rushed to permit the project without enough public process.
“A lot of people at least wanted the chance to review the plan and check it for safety,” Powers said. “Nobody else got to look at it.”
With only three days to organize, Powers said he was pleased to have as many people as possible make the trip – including some from Idaho and Washington state. Signs in hand, they chanted into the night and took shifts watching for when the 380-foot-long, 23-foot-wide trucking behemoth would hit the road.
As of late Sunday, the megaload had not left the port. ODOT regional spokesman Tom Strandberg previously said it would begin moving either Sunday or Monday night.
The load is only permitted to travel between 8 pm and 6 am, and no more than eight consecutive hours per night. It will eventually reach the John Day Valley before crossing east into southern Idaho and north through Montana en route to Canada.
But the megaload is a symbol of a much bigger problem, Powers said, as more fossil fuels are burned from the tar sands.
“It definitely makes me sad there isn’t more publicity about the problem,” Powers said. “My children and grandchildren will be greatly harmed by this machine.”
Drivers can expect delays up to 20 minutes, once the slow-moving megaload leaves Umatilla. Traffic impact information will be updated online at www.tripcheck.com.
(By George Plaven, East Oregonian)