Sunday, August 10, Launch & Opposition to Bigge-Haul​ed Calumet Megaload


Late on Thursday morning, August 7, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) received confirmation from a regional journalist that an overlegal load awaiting transport by Bigge Crane and Rigging Company from the Port of Wilma near Clarkston, Washington, to Great Falls, Montana, may move on Sunday evening, August 10, and successive nights afterwards between 10 pm to 6 am.  As noted by Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) District 1  business manager Scotty Fellom in Coeur d’Alene, ITD public involvement coordinator Adam Rush in Boise said that ITD is preparing and expects to issue a permit and press release on Friday afternoon, leaving little or no time for public and/or legal recourse during normal business hours.

The bottom hydrocracker section would double or triple production of Alberta tar sands crude oil at the Montana Refining Company in Great Falls, Montana, owned by Calumet Specialty Products Partners.  Hauled by several heavy-duty pull and push trucks and interconnected trailers, the entire transport weighs 926,000 pounds and measures 311 feet long, 21 feet wide, and one inch short of 17 feet high, the heaviest and longest load to ever traverse the proposed U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 200 route in Idaho.  According to two sources, one at the Lewiston ITD office, the two larger and wider parts of the hydrocracker left the Port of Wilma via rail about three weeks ago.  These circumstances lead observers to believe that this shipment is pushing the limits of critical, rural, publicly owned and funded highway and bridge infrastructure.

As exemplified in four years of Wild Idaho Rising Tide and allied resistance to such new fossil fuel infrastructure transported as “megaloads” across four states, WIRT and other concerned groups and citizens oppose this latest onslaught.  In February 2014, we successfully diverted these three loads from Mammoet USA South’s scheme to build a temporary Interstate 90 on-ramp east of Coeur d’Alene, where previous interchange construction had collapsed into Lake Coeur d’Alene, by insisting on full environmental impact statement review of the project.  We will continue to monitor, protest, and petition to halt passage of this Bigge-hauled refinery equipment in Lewiston, Moscow, Plummer, Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, Hope, and throughout the region, for myriad, justifiable reasons, including the ones outlined here.

1. Public Participation Averted

Although ITD hosted and/or participated in open house and public meetings in Coeur d’Alene in December 2013 and in Moscow in January 2014, ITD has provided no public participation or education opportunities regarding this gargantuan transport proposal, the first to attempt movement on the U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 200 route.  May 30 email messages from the ITD Boise and Coeur d’Alene offices to Bigge Crane and Rigging Company stated that, “They [Bigge/Mammoet] will need some public involvement; also they will need Idaho State Police escort in some areas,” and “You will need to work with Jason [Minzghor of ITD District 1] on setting up public meetings, where you will need Idaho State Police, and on contacting ISP to make arrangements for the move” [1].  According to regional journalists and to ITD public records received by WIRT on July 31, the company and perhaps ITD met with city and county officials and police, but never engaged in announced, open public meetings.

2. Public Safety and Highways Imperiled

Since early 2011, several companies have hauled over 100 colossal pieces of tar sands extraction and production equipment, weighing up to 700,000 pounds, on U.S. Highways 12 and 95 and Interstate 90 through northern Idaho, between Lewiston area ports and western Montana [2].  Expensively and dangerously facilitated by the Idaho Transportation Department, state police, and private contractors, these shipments have imperiled the safety and schedules of travelers, while delaying, confusing, and blocking public highway access and traffic with their two-lane widths and lengthy, glaring cargoes and convoys.  Transport operations have caused personal injury and property damage through impeded public and private emergency services and numerous accidents and collisions with vehicles, tree branches, cliffs, and power lines, while they degraded highways with washboard ruts in lane centers, and pummeled saturated road beds, crumbling shoulders, and outdated bridges.  Across the region during the last 18 months, at least five oversize loads have toppled from or with their trailers in the vicinity of Roundup, Montana, Portland, Oregon, and Pocatello, Idaho, or have caused a river bridge to collapse near Mount Vernon, Washington.

3. Unique Natural Values Compromised

North Idaho citizens have expressed intense concerns about the possibilities of this giant load collapsing or degrading the U.S. Highway 95 Long Bridge south of Sandpoint and the two-year-old, elevated bypass around downtown, the Sand Creek Byway, which were both not built to support so much weight on a regular basis [3].  ITD has stated that the Long Bridge needs replacement because of rusty pilings and other structural weaknesses.  The taxpayer-funded agency should not even consider allowing such a heavy load to cross this almost two-mile-long bridge, especially during the August 7 to 17 Festival at Sandpoint series of musical concerts, one of the largest tourist events each year in the area.  Local residents and visiting travelers also cherish remote Idaho Highway 200 between Sandpoint and the Montana border, for its immediately adjacent public lands and waters.  This Bigge and Calumet fast track from natural riches to industrial ruin would transform this beautiful, federally-designated Pend Oreille National Scenic Byway into an oversize equipment-hauling corridor along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille and up the Clark Fork River valley through Cabinet Gorge in Montana.  ITD removed roadside trees along this scenic byway during Spring 2014, likely to accommodate this megaload transport proposal that would impact six state-managed wildlife habitat management areas or preserves, traversing the Pack River Game Management Area and the Pend Oreille State Wildlife Management Area, passing next to the David Thompson State Wildlife Preserve, and traveling close to three other game management areas.

4. Clean Energy Future Forestalled

ITD and the engineering firm and bridge analysis consultants Forsgren Associates assured the public last winter that the Montana Refining Company destination of these reactor vessels would use the three pieces of a hydrocracker “to create ultra-low-sulfur diesel to meet EPA Clean Air [Act] standards,” and that these transports would carry “no hazardous waste or chemicals” [4].  However, WIRT research has disclosed and widely publicized that these colossal megaloads would triple the conversion of 10,000 barrels per day of Canadian heavy bitumen (tar sands) crude into Rockies transportation fuels [5].  This crude oil arrives via pipelines and rail cars as 95 percent of the feedstock of this closest U.S. refinery to Alberta tar sands mining operations.  Such hydrocracking and hydro-treating pressure vessels, which split heavy hydrocarbon molecules and insert hydrogen under high heat and pressure, are essential to tar sands refining and production of lighter, valuable hydrocarbons like diesel fuel.  But refinery emissions of under-regulated, toxic sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and related particulate matter from raw, typically high-sulfur tar sands results in the acidified rain and aquatic and terrestrial environments and the respiratory, cardiovascular, cancer, and other health risks and impacts of increasing U.S. production of fossil fuels from bitumen blends.  As new and upgraded tar sands and shale oil refineries proliferate in greater proximity to Alberta and Bakken mines, the Northwest region can expect and resist more of these megaloads and their anticipated significant impacts on air quality, human and environmental health, and climate stability, both in transit and at their destinations.

5. Social & Economic Costs Escalated

Citizens concerned about the lax state oversight and myriad impacts of these overlegal loads, who have monitored, documented, and protested dangerous convoy practices and conditions, have additionally faced unwarranted targeting, surveillance, intimidation, harassment, and arrest by state troopers and county and city police sworn to serve public safety, but who instead protect corporate interests that challenge Idahoans’ civil liberties and risk the health and wellbeing of people, places, and the planet.  To date, police have arrested 70 Rising Tide allied climate and tribal activists and cited four more during over one hundred direct protesting and monitoring confrontations of this corporate take-over of public highways [6].  They and thousands of regional community members can attest that megaload operations are anything but safe, as private profit consistently usurps public interests.  During just one fiscal year, Imperial Oil transports cost the Idaho Transportation Department $645,000 in administrative costs not covered by megaload permits, not to mention the millions of dollars that American taxpayers spend to repair public transportation infrastructure damaged by tar sands shipments [7].

Respect existence or expect resistance!

[1] ITD Highway 95 and 200 Megaload Public Records 7-31-14 (July 31, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[2] Concerns and Comments about the Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive Temporary Overweight Truck Route (February 6, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide, Spokane Rising Tide, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, and Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition)

[3] WIRT Newsletter: Congratulations, Condolence​s, Upcoming Events, and Highway 95/200 Megaloads (May 2, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[4] Mammoet Megaloads 2013-14 Public Records (January 10, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[5] WIRT Newsletter: Wednesday Hearing/Action and Public Records/News about Tar Sands Refinery Megaloads (January 14, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[6] Northwest Protests of Omega Morgan-Hauled Tar Sands Megaloads (January 25, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[7] ITD Loses $645,000 Annually on Oversize Load Permits (January 24, 2012 Lewiston Tribune)

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