Northwest and Northern Rockies megaloads, as components of Alberta tar sands extraction and production facilities and as regional road hazards, violate multiple natural and human conditions and risk the health and wellbeing of people, places, and the planet.
Climate Change: The current 250-square-mile Alberta tar sands mining complex, the largest industrial project on Earth, constitutes the single greatest North American point source of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Resulting global climate chaos amplifies super storms, melts glaciers, dries up rivers, acidifies oceans, and harms the Earth and future generations.
Alternative Energy: Bitumen (tar sands) exploitation prolongs America’s addiction to the world’s dirtiest oil, as 97 percent of Canadian oil exports supply the U.S. with its largest source of foreign oil. The life cycle of this fuel consumes more energy than it creates and undermines the eventual competitive advantage of alternative energy production and consumption.
Water Conflicts: Tar sands mining and processing contaminates three million barrels of freshwater every day, requiring four times as much water to process than the resulting oil. Processing facilities spew toxic waste fluids into vast, unlined, expanding sludge lakes that leak hazardous chemicals into Athabasca River basin waters and soils. Megaload routes invade wild and scenic river corridors and critical habitat for federally listed threatened and endangered species.
Wildlife/Habitat: Megaloads facilitate the ecological destruction of sub-arctic boreal forests, peat bogs, and wetlands, the second great lung and carbon sink of the world, demolished at the second fastest global rate after the Amazon bioregion. Tar sands development compromises biodiversity, diminishes some area bird species by 80 percent, reduces threatened, regional, woodland caribou populations by half, and poses serious risks to continental bird, fish, and wildlife populations dependent on nearby summer breeding and nesting grounds.
Human Rights: The Beaver Lake Cree First Nation has documented over 17,000 instances of tar sands mining operations blocking or precluding their members’ access to hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods and medicines guaranteed by constitutionally supported treaty rights. As ongoing genocide, pollution from tar sands projects infuses First Nations land, water, and air with coke compounds, heavy metals, mining dust, and carcinogens poisoning the health and subsistence practices of downwind and downstream communities.
Tribal/Public Input: Megaloads degrade indigenous lands and territories and national and state historic and scenic corridors and sites, alter the character and integrity of livable towns and wild public lands, and jeopardize the fastest-growing sector of the regional economy, tourism and recreation. State transportation departments provide little advance warning and only nominal community feedback and knowledge of megaload passage, avoiding public comment processes before megaloads use collective resources.
Industrial Corridor: As the first of potentially hundreds of shipments of massively oversized, Pacific Rim-built tar sands equipment, each weighing up to almost one million pounds, initial megaloads could test and establish a permanent “high and wide” industrial corridor to outmoded, extreme energy extraction projects in the North American West, like the Bakken shale field and Alberta and Utah tar sands mines. Remote, rural Northwest rivers and roads, along a path of least political resistance in the four-state region, could become supply route sacrifice zones enduring megaload onslaughts from Columbia River basin ports.
Injury/Damage: Regional tar sands megaloads have caused personal injury and property damage through numerous direct and circumstantial collisions with vehicles, power lines, cliffs, and tree branches. During one year, Imperial Oil transports cost the Idaho Transportation Department $645,000 in administrative costs not covered by megaload permits. In the wake of tar sands shipments, American taxpayers spend millions of dollars to repair damaged public transportation infrastructure, highways with washboard ruts in lane centers, and pummeled, saturated road beds, crumbling shoulders, and outdated bridges with questionable capacity to bear heavy loads.
Traveler/Animal Safety: Tar sands transports risk the safety of travelers, livestock, and wildlife sharing the road, by imposing confusing and dangerous driving conditions with their flashing lights and unusual slowing, stopping, and passing patterns. Residents along megaload routes have voiced concerns about transport emission impacts on human and agricultural health and harms to real estate values and farming economies reliant on rural highways.
Public Access: Megaload monitors have witnessed numerous instances of oversize transports, two lanes wide and hundreds of feet long, and their dozen-vehicle convoys blocking highways and interstates and crowding and guarding public pull-offs, even when loads are absent. Their nighttime processions have delayed substantial amounts of normal and holiday traffic, including public and private emergency vehicles, for longer periods of time than allowed by state codes, on several occasions for hours.
Police Co-Option: Citizens concerned about the lax state oversight and myriad impacts of overlegal tar sands shipments have monitored, documented, and protested unsafe convoy practices and conditions. Police officers sworn to serve public safety have displayed suspicion, intimidation, and/or aggression toward other drivers during megaload passage, challenging civil liberties and protecting corporations more than citizens.
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Great outline: This is what we need to do – get the facts to the public. I will link this on my blog today (a new blog that I am still figuring out how to set up: Learning Earthways, http://georgepriceblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/thinking-about-the-unthinkable/).
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