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Eviro-whackos target transport in Idaho ( 22:17:57 ThuOct 21 2010 )

At least we now know they're against just about every form of commerce...


LEWISTON, Idaho—A Canadian oil company's $8 billion plan to tap Alberta's oil sands has hit a roadblock en route to U.S. Highway 12.

Imperial Oil wants to send 35,000 tons of mining equipment over the Rocky Mountains in 207 massive loads that would creep along the winding, two-lane highway in the middle of the night—four or five shipments a week—for about a year. The route is part of a shortcut of sorts, designed to shave months and thousands of miles off the trip from the equipment's South Korean maker to Canada.
Roadblock for Oil Field

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Leah Nash for The Wall Street Journal

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For now, though, the equipment modules are starting to pile up at the Port of Lewiston, waiting for an Idaho Supreme Court ruling that could keep the plan in park.

Imperial Oil, a Canadian unit of Exxon Mobil Corp., says it has spent years hammering out agreements with transportation officials both here and in Montana, and will spend about $100 million in the two states to ensure its equipment arrives safely. But some residents want to keep the industrial cargo off the scenic highway, worried both about planned road closures and what would happen in case of an accident.
Experience WSJ professional
Editors' Deep Dive: Technology Drives New Energy Gains

The company already has begun floating the first of the equipment modules on barges nearly 300 miles up the Columbia River from where ocean freighters dock at Vancouver, Wash. The Snake River then takes the armada an additional 180 miles to Lewiston.

Caught in the middle of the dispute is the port, which stands to earn up to $80,000 a month receiving and handling the cargo.

"We're excited for the opportunity," said David Doeringsfeld, the port's general manager. Mr. Doeringsfeld's stevedores mainly handle exports—Idaho wheat, dried peas and lentils heading west to Asia. The port has been trying to position itself as a hub for oversize, hard-to-ship items headed for the Great Plains, like wind-turbine blades.

The Imperial Oil contract, he said, could really put the port on shippers' radar screens. "Activity fosters activity," he said.

That's what many local residents fear.

"It's more than we should have to put up with," said Marjie Johnson, 72 years old, a retired teacher in Lewiston. "It's just too much for that mountain road."

From the port, trucks are supposed to travel on U.S. 12 from Lewiston to Missoula, Mont., via the Bitterroot Mountains' Lolo Pass. The route to the pass is one of the West's most scenic, full of twisting switchbacks, steep hillsides and solitude as it skirts the Nez Perce Indian reservation and the rushing Lochsa River. From Missoula, the modules can be hauled across flatlands to the U.S.-Canada border at Sweetgrass, Mont.

To get started developing the Kearl Oil Sands region, Imperial Oil faced a logistical challenge something like Hannibal's elephant corps crossing the Alps to invade Italy.

The company chose to have about a fifth of its processing machinery made in South Korea. Stacked in massive steel frames, the jumble of tubes, gears and hydraulic machinery—which will dredge sludge from the oil sands and send it for processing—is too big even for the holds of ocean-plying ships.

The cargo also is much too big to carry inland by rail. Nor can it be transported on trucks in Washington state, California, British Columbia or Oregon, because no highway in any of those places is free of tunnels or overpasses.

That left Imperial Oil with a choice: sail through the Panama Canal and off-load at an eastern seaport; sail around to the Great Lakes and then bring in the cargo via Minnesota—or find a shortcut. Idaho and Montana, where U.S. 12 is overpass-free, fit the bill.

Under the terms the company worked out with Idaho and Montana, no more than one module would be shipped each day, and only between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5:30 the next morning. Trucks would travel at slow speeds, and only for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, before pulling off the road to allow traffic to pass.

"Our bottom line is to move these modules as safely and efficiently as possible with minimal impact," said Pius Rolheiser, spokesman for Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada.

Imperial plans to spend $35 million just to build highway turnouts so the caravans can make their pullover stops, and to relocate utility cables or signs in the way. It also plans to spend over $30 million on trucks, drivers and chase vehicles to accompany the loads front and back, as well as pay state highway patrol cars to follow each load.

The legal obstacle began not with Imperial Oil's plan, but with a much smaller shipment. In May, four coke drums commissioned by ConocoPhillips for a refinery in Billings, Mont., arrived at Lewiston.

A coalition of environmentalists and small business owners sued to halt their transport, and on Aug. 24, a district judge in Boise threw out the Idaho Department of Transportation's permit that would have allowed that shipment to proceed. The judge said the agency didn't give the public enough opportunity to respond to the proposal and said he wasn't convinced the company could effectively respond to a mishap along the desolate route.

All parties now await a state Supreme Court ruling in the case, which also has Imperial Oil's permits on hold.

Meanwhile, the modules from Korea keep coming. The Port of Lewiston has another eight weeks or so to receive them—or start sending them back down the river. On Dec. 10, the Columbia River closes to barge traffic for maintenance on its network of locks and dams. Barge traffic will resume next March.

Write to Joel Millman at
WSJ Article [120 clicks]

531 posts
Re: Eviro-whackos target transport in Idaho ( 16:41:15 MonNov 15 2010 )

This part of Idaho is my home town area. Let me tell you that as a boy growing up, if you weren't careful, logging trucks would run you over. Those logging trucks ran on the two lane highways almost twenty four hours a day.

Now, because of the spotted owl crap and all the enviro zealot garbage, people want to stop trucks from using that highway for a profitable purpose?

Wake up America, this is the exact mindset that is destroying our country.

I hope the people of Idaho voted this judge out if he was up for re-election.



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