U.S. Highway 12 -- Idaho’s Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and All-American Road
Big Oil: One-Time Deal or 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 five nights a week for an estimated 9 months. But 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 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 recently 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.”
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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.
Anyone who believes that ExxonMobil or ConocoPhillips or other giant international corporations care for the well-being of Idahoans should talk to the fishermen families and tourism/recreation business owners of the Louisiana Gulf Coast or Valdez, Alaska. We, the rural people of Highway 12, will be Big Oil’s next victims…
… unless we stand up and voice our opposition to Big Oil’s takeover of the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and 1 of our nation’s 27 All-American Roads.
The Rural People of Highway 12