Judge halts Montana megaload shipments

 

By New West Editor

In what appears to be a major victory for those fighting the transport of oversized oil refinery equipment through Idaho and Montana to the Kearl Oil Sands in Canada, a judge has ruled that the Montana Department of Transportation is in violation of the law and issued a preliminary injunction.

Judge Ray Dayton, a district court judge in Anaconda, found the Department of Transportation was in default in accepting a less-than-adequate environmental assessment regarding the construction of turnouts, which are essential for the rigs as they travel from Lewiston, Idaho, along the Lochsa River on Highway 12 over Lolo Pass and into Montana, where they’d also traverse Highway 200 and other two-lane roads. The judgment was in favor of the four plaintiffs, most notably Missoula County, which was joined in the suit by environmental groups National Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Montana chapter of the Sierra Club.

The plaintiffs claimed the department “failed to adequately consider impacts of the project and failed to adequately consider reasonable alternatives.” The judge agreed and also pointed out the department should have and did not identify which turnouts were temporary and which would be permanent. By not knowing, or not saying, it’d be unclear what the future environmental impact would be, he said.

Dwane Kailey, chief operations officer, engineer and highways administrator for the department, testified before Dayton that the decision to remove turnouts would be made “in the future, based on the benefit to the public,” according to Dayton’s memo on the decision.

That raised several questions. Among them, according to the decision: “Whether the turnouts are left in place will necessarily affect whether the route will accommodate future loads of similar size.” That’s a key point, as critics of the haul have expressed doubts that the 207 loads bound for Alberta will be the end of the megaloads along scenic byways. Indeed, a 2009 report from a hauler for Exxon/Mobil indicated the project will be a “game changer for Alberta’s oil sands developers,” opening up a “high-load corridor.”

Contacted by the Missoulian, Pius Rolheiser, spokesman for Imperial Oil, said the Calgary-based company was disappointed with Dayton’s ruling.

“As we’ve just received the judge’s order, we will need time to assess, understand and determine our next steps,” Rolheiser said.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Image of Wyoming coal trains  courtesy Flickr user Nicholas Senn

Originally posted at NewWest.net
High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...