U.S. Highway 12
Idaho’s Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and All-American Road

Big Oil: One-Time deal of Permanent Takeover?

Promoters of turning Idaho’s Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and All-American Road into an industrial truck route for gargantuan loads argue that currently planned and pending ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada mega-load shipments are a “one-off deal;” a one time event. Actually, the ExxonMobil Canada shipments alone number 207, and for successive 15+ minute segments, will close the highway to all traffic seven nights a week for an estimated 9 months. But increasingly evidence suggests that the truth about the oil companies’ intentions lies well beyond those 207 loads……

• The Port of Lewiston, both on their website and in grant applications for port expansion with taxpayer money, states, “If one oil company is successful with this alternative transportation route, many other companies will follow their lead.”

• The CEO of Sungjin Geotec, the Korean company that manufactured the 207 ExxonMobil Canada modules, told a Korean news agency his company expects to receive future orders for additional modules from Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada totaling $1.5 billion. The 207 loads now scheduled for U. S. 12 cost $250 million, suggesting that $1.5 billion would pay for about 1200 modules. The Edmonton Journal of Alberta, Canada, recently reported that a Sungjin representative in Calgary confirmed that his company expects to build hundreds of additional modules.

• Bemoaning the loss of metal fabrication jobs for Canadian workers to Korean workers, an Alberta, Canada, industrial association recently stated, “This route (from Lewiston, Idaho to Canada) will become the highway for energy-related products from not only South Korea, but even-lower-wage suppliers such as China and Vietnam.”

• A printout from a Montana Department of Transportation 2009 public slide show presentation states that ExxonMobil proposes to create “permanent High and Wide Corridors,” i.e. permanent industrial mega-load truck routes. That, of course, would include Idaho’s U.S. 12, since it spans the distance between the Port of Lewiston and the Montana border.

• During a summer of 2010, 30-day public comment period in Montana, a period allowed in response to a required MT Department of Transportation Environmental Assessment [EA] of the ExxonMobil Canada shipment plan, the Missoula County Commissioners submitted a 10-point document requesting a 90-day extension of the comment period. In that document and referring to the EA, the commissioners wrote< "The document [the EA] discussion involves establishing a permanent route through Missoula County for these and other types of oversized loads." Again, the "permanent route" would include Idaho's section of U.S.12.

• A member of the Alberta, Canada, Legislature had told a Great Falls Tribune reporter, “A company like Imperial is not spending $40 million .… [to develop a high-wide corridor] for one project and one project only.”

• A Missoula attorney and former Montana Department of Transportation lawyer stated to that same Great Falls reporter, “…MDT in past statements have acknowledged that this is going to be a permanent corridor in order to facilitate a transportation route for these modules being built in Asia.”

• In a February 2009 letter to the Port of Lewiston, the Idaho congressional delegation stated their understanding that should initial ExxonMobil Canada shipments prove successful, “there exists the potential to import hundreds of component modules through the Columbia/Snake River System and Port of Lewiston.”

• Without ever having sought input from the taxpaying public, in a January 2009 letter to the Port of Lewiston in specific support of the ExxonMobil shipments, Governor Butch Otter wrote, “I pledge our [Idaho’s] support and cooperation to enhance the development of this important new business opportunity.”

• In his July 21, 2010, letter to Gov. Otter, requesting that the Governor “defer any decision to ship,” U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick noted, “Idahoans in North Central Idaho deserve answers to these questions before the establishment of a route that proponents have claimed may lead to 20 years of continuous shipment of over-sized mining materials through the area.”

• In his Aug. 25, 2010, letter to U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secy. Ray LaHood, Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio stated, “”work is already underway in both states [Idaho & Montana] to create oversized load corridors…”

• On Oct. 1, 2010, the Columbian (Vancouver WA) reported that the Port of  Vancouver would soon receive the first Imperial Oil modules from South Korea. The article, “Port Will Be Key Link in Controversial Canadian Oil Project,” noted, “The Port’s role in handling the oil equipment is connected to a three-year contract it signed last year with South Korea’s Dong Bang Transport Logistics Company, which is shipping the Korean-built equipment to the port’s Terminal 2.” Imperial Oil has scheduled its 207 shipments over a 1-year period. What other shipments will come in a 3-year time span?

• On Sept. 15, 2010, the Idaho Transportation Department met with representatives of Harvest Energy (aka Harvest Operations), a Korean government-owned oil company that proposes to ship about 63 modules to a new plant site in the Alberta, Canada. These shipments would bring total (publicly known) proposed shipments in 2011 to 274.

• According to a Lewiston Tribune editorial, “Borrowing from China to Ship Korean Goods,” dated Jan. 23, 2011,  “In January-February 2009, the port [of Lewiston] sought a $1.8 million earmark, to be matched with $500,000 from the state of Idaho and the 2008 earmark. … the earmark request was tied directly to the megaloads. The application went to [U.S. Senators] Crapo and Risch … ‘As the most inland port on the West Coast, the port is in discussions with Exxon, Conoco, Shell and other companies for moving heavy lift cargo into the U.S. Midwest and to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada,’ the port's appropriations application reads.

“Elsewhere in that document, the port advised Crapo and Risch that since July 2008, it had been working with ‘several U.S. and Canadian oil companies and logistics firms to ship oversized cargo’ to the Kearl Oil Sands area as well as ‘with companies to transport oversized cargo into the U.S. Midwest for wind-powered generators and coal-fired electrical generation plants.’ Crapo and Risch agreed to seek about $510,000, but the earmark request got bogged down in a budget fight.”

In 2010, “the port sought $1.8 million for dock expansion to ‘accommodate break bulk cargo such as equipment modules for oil companies in Alberta, Canada; wind turbines to the Midwest and refinery equipment to Montana and Wyoming.’ Crapo and Risch got $850,000 attached to a budget bill, but the Senate deadlocked and failed to pass it.”


Can there any longer be any doubt that Big Oil plans — if the State of Idaho allows them — to permanently turn the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and All-American Road — U.S.12 — into a mega-load industrial truck route? No.

In doing so, some of the largest international corporations in the world expect the citizens of Idaho to assume all the risks involved in these shipments. They expect us — the rural people of Highway 12, Lewiston to Lolo Pass, and nearby communities, such as Clarkston, Washington, and Grangeville and Moscow, Idaho — to suffer a predictable loss to our travel/tourism-based livelihoods, our safety, our recreational opportunities, our property values and our way of life—while they gain the profits.

Borg Hendrickson & Linwood Laughy
The Rural People of Highway 12

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