The past week brought a number of interesting developments in the ongoing heavy haul debate. Front and center was the joint lawsuit filed against the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) by the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Missoula County Board of County Commissioners. The suit aims to force additional review of ExxonMobil subsidiary Imperial Oil's proposal to ship more than 100 pieces of Canada-bound oversized equipment up highways 12 and 200. Click here to view a copy of the plaintiffs' complaint.
“Exxon’s mega-loads put Montana at risk while locking us into a future of dirty energy from abroad," National Wildlife Federation attorney Tom France said in a statement this morning, referencing Imperial Oil's tar sands mining operation in Alberta. "Before we let polluters run roughshod through Montana we must have a proper review of the environmental costs and risks.”
News of the legal filing broke just days before the Calgary Herald reported that Imperial Oil plans to "revisit" its deal with the South Korean manufacturer that made the loads. Imperial Oil Chief Executive Bruce March explained to the Herald that the oil company originally turned to the Pacific Rim in 2007-08 when manufacturers in Edmonton were unable to accommodate its needs. Imperial Oil spent the subsequent two years scoping the potential for a shipping route through Idaho and Montana, eventually announcing its Kearl Module Transportation Project to the public in spring 2010. Protests began almost immediately, and March's interview with the Herald suggests that the resulting delays contributed greatly to the company's recent call to "revisit" its manufacturing situation. In the meantime, Imperial Oil continues to reduce the size of more than 30 loads at the Port of Lewiston, preparing them for transport on the interstate highway system.