Are ‘Megaloads’ In Eastern Oregon’s Future?

from Wild Idaho Rising Tide

An evaporator parked  in Idaho, on July 31, 2013 (Greg Stahl photo)

An evaporator parked in Idaho, on July 31, 2013 (Greg Stahl photo)

At 7 pm on Monday, November 18, Omega Morgan representatives will hold a meeting at the Grant County Regional Airport, 72000 Airport Road in John Day, Oregon, to talk with the public about their proposal to move oversize refinery equipment through Grant County to Nevada or southern Idaho [1].  County Judge Scott Myers requested this first of two meetings confirmed at the weekly county court session on November 13.  After fielding questions and concerns about the Oregon megaloads and routes from citizens and agencies, Myers contacted Omega Morgan, who offered to send its public affairs team to the session.  A company spokeswoman stated that the Oregon Department of Transportation has tentatively scheduled a second meeting at an unknown location and time on November 25, to inform the South East Area Commission on Transportation about the project [2].  Elected officials, tribal leaders, and citizens of Grant, Harney, and Malheur counties compose the commission.

The Hillsboro, Oregon-based hauling company Omega Morgan is seeking permits to transport three, but probably many more, parts of Alberta tar sands evaporators by barge to the Port of Umatilla, east to Pendleton, south on U.S. Highway 395 to Mount Vernon, and east through John Day and Prairie City via U.S. Highway 26 to Ontario [3].  It initially planned to truck the megaloads south through Burns to Nevada, but recently indicated the eastern route toward southern Idaho [4, 5].  Starting in late November and continuing into December, the eastern Oregon loads would require utility crews to lift many low-hanging wires.  Blocking both lanes of two-lane highways at night, with traffic delays limited to 20 minutes by state law, these modules and accompanying dozen-vehicle convoys could compromise emergency access to the only regional hospital for residents suffering sudden heart attacks, strokes, accidents, or childbirth.

 

On July 31, a Boise conservationist photographed two smaller evaporators parked off U.S. Highway 20, between Fairfield and the Timmerman Junction intersection with Highway 75, one at Moonstone Landing and the other in front of a company called Metalworks [6].  Although this equipment reportedly traveled toward Salt Lake City (and emerging Utah tar sands development?), Alberta tar sands-bound units could also attempt Highway 20 passage across southern Idaho to Interstate 15 North, which accommodated hundreds of Exxon Mobil/Imperial Oil tar sands megaloads during 2011 and 2012.  A coalition of concerned groups awaits the results of public records requests sent to the Idaho Transportation Department, asking for information about Highway 20 and/or southern Idaho oversize shipments.

Megaloads have sparked growing controversy in Idaho and Montana, where a broad coalition of rural residents, tribal nations, conservation organizations, and climate activists have stalled and stopped various corporations from transporting tar sands mining facilities components on Highways 12, 95, 395, and Interstate 90 since May 2010.  Several lawsuits brought forward by Highway 12 businesses and conservationists and eleven months of relentless monitoring and protesting activities around Moscow, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington, ultimately cost Imperial Oil an extra two billion dollars to build its Kearl Oil Sands Project in Alberta [7].

In Idaho, megaloads have imperiled the safety and schedules of travelers, delayed and blocked traffic with their 16- to 24-foot widths and lengthy convoys, impeded public and private emergency services, caused personal injury and property damage through numerous collisions with vehicles, power lines, cliffs, and tree branches, degraded highways with washboard ruts in lane centers, and pummeled saturated road beds, crumbling shoulders, and outdated bridges [8].  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 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.

During early August 2013, four nights of impassioned protests led by the Nez Perce Tribe and allies and a resulting federal lawsuit and injunction blocked one of two 644,000-pound, 255-foot-long Omega Morgan evaporators from tribal homelands, national forests, and wild and scenic river corridors along Highway 12 [9].  Anti-tar sands/climate activists from across the Pacific and Inland Northwest have confronted other Omega Morgan evaporators on their journeys up Highway 12 in October 2012 and through the sacrifice zone of Highway 95 and Interstate 90 on October 15 and 16 and November 10 to 13, 2013 [10].  Throughout the continent, people are increasingly building grassroots, front-line, resistance movements that refute and reject further fossil fuel infrastructure buttressing outmoded energy extraction, production, and transportation ventures.

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied regional activists plan to attend both public meetings in eastern Oregon over the next two weeks, and will release further action alerts and updates about the situation.  Carpools for the first meeting embark from Moscow, Idaho, for John Day, Oregon, at 12 noon on Monday, November 18.  Please contact WIRT by phone or email or via our facebook or website pages, for further issue information and travel arrangements.

[1] Megaloads Meeting Coming Up in John Day (November 13 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[2] Omega Morgan Has Two Meetings on Schedule in Eastern Oregon (November 14 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[3] Superload Could Go East on Highway 26 from John Day (November 8 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[4] Are ‘Megaloads’ in Eastern Oregon’s Future? (November 4 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[5] Omega Morgan Confirms Loads Will Be Parts of Evaporators (November 6 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[6] Southern Idaho Highway 20 Evaporators 7-31-13 (Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[7] Imperial Boosts Kearl Oil-Sands Costs to $12.9 Billion (February 1 Bloomberg)

[8] Media Release: More Charges Brought Against Tar Sands “Megaload” Protesters in Moscow, Idaho (March 10, 2012 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[9] Fight Over Energy Finds a New Front in a Corner of Idaho and An Indian Tribe’s Battle (September 25 New York Times)

[10] Omega Morgan Megaloads (Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

Tags: , ,