The ExxonMobil monster trucks that are headed for the Columbia & Snake River watersheds.

By Patricia Weber of Corvallis, Oregon. She is an electrical engineer and land use planner with a passion for energy and climate change issues.

Greetings Friends. I'm writing to you today to talk about an issue that has come to my attention as something that is important for everyone in Oregon to take very seriously.

The issue is the proposed Kearl Module Transport Project, wherein ExxonMobil is intending to develop a permanent high and wide industrial transportation corridor through the Pacific Northwest to the Alberta Tar Sands project.

The Alberta Tar Sands is the largest most destructive industrial project on the planet. Millions of acres of northern boreal forest is being strip-mined for bitumen that holds oil in a solid form. The oil is cooked out through a process that uses water equivalent to a city of roughly 2 million people. Toxic wastewater leaks directly into the environment at a rate of over 2.8 million gallons a day. The oil is then shipped in a continent-wide network of pipelines and tanker ports into the global oil market. Some of this vast web is in place; the rest is being built as fast as Canadian and American governments issue permits. Once at full scale, the development and its tentacles will operate for nearly half a century.

The KMTP high & wide industrial transportation corridor will be used to expand tar sands operations beyond what currently exists. It is intended to allow the movement of over-sized mining and processing equipment that will be manufactured in South Korea to the Alberta Tar Sands. The equipment is to be shipped to Portland, where it will then be barged up the Columbia and Snake Rivers to Lewiston, ID. From Lewiston, it would travel on over-size trucks up Highway 12, over Lolo Pass into MT, through Missoula, up MT Highway 200, over the continental divide and north into Canada.

To call these trucks over-sized is an understatement. They will be 24' wide, over 200' long, 30' tall, and weigh up to 344,000 pounds. Highway 12 through Idaho travels along the Lochsa River, which has been designated a Wild and Scenic River. MT Hwy 200 travels along the Blackfoot River, which was the inspiration for Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It". This project has been pushed forward by ExxonMobil with inadequate environmental review performed.

Furthermore, it is our understanding that federal tax dollars from the ARRA program have or will be used in ID to fund modifications to Hwy 12 that would be necessary to accommodate these trucks. This is a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars, as the KMTP amounts to a subsidization of the big oil companies, at the cost of some of the most beautiful and wild areas of the Pacific Northwest. How would we feel if these behemoth rigs were allowed to travel directly alongside the Rogue or the Metolius Rivers? These would be comparable in terms of wild, rugged beauty to the Lochsa or the Blackfoot.

We in Oregon have led the nation in passing climate-saving legislation; yet the mining of the Alberta Tar Sands would undo in just a month or two what we Oregonians have worked so hard to accomplish. According to NASA climate scientist James Hansen, "the tar sands constitute one of our planet's greatest threats. They are a double-barreled threat. First, producing oil from tar sands emits two to three times the global warming pollution of conventional oil. But [it] also diminishes one of the best carbon reduction tools on the planet: Canada's Boreal Forest." Do we want to allow ExxonMobil unfettered access through the northwest, to move their equipment to continue and expand this devastation?

For almost 20 years, Oregon has led the fight to stop the extinction of Columbia and Snake River wild salmon and steelhead. Restoring these fish is vital to Oregon’s quality of life, heritage, economy, and ecology. Think about the risks to wild salmon of shipping mining equipment 2/3 the size of a football field up the Columbia and Snake and Lochsa Rivers for 40 years. Think about Exxon becoming a major influence on Columbia/Snake salmon and water policies for 40 years. Is this in our interest?

Please join me in opposing this monstrous abuse of public resources. “All Against the Haul” is an organization based out of Missoula, MT which is organizing to fight the KMTP throughout the Pacific Northwest – in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. With your help, we can keep ExxonMobil from building an industrial transportation corridor through our precious region.

Here’s what you can do: send an email to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood demanding that the KMTP be stopped until a full environmental impact statement has been issued for the entire project, including not only effects on endangered steelhead and salmon populations, but also the impacts on climate change of expanding tar sands development.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood - [email protected]
Chair of CEQ Nancy Sutley - [email protected]
Deputy Undersecretary Jay Jensen - [email protected]
Senator Jeff Merkley -
Senator Ron Wyden -

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    I very much appreciate this information and Email lnks for input to be given.

    A complete outrage that the tar sands development is encouraged by both the U.S. (as practically the only customer) and Canadian/Albertan governments.

    Tar sands oil-cum-bitumen carries a 3x times as large carbon footprint as does conventional sweet, light crude. And we need to be getting off the light crude, too- but the tar sands- the damage short and long-terms is so bad as to be unconscienable.

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    Great article - everyone in Oregon should read this. I will be sending emails to the Transportation Secretary and others voicing my opposition to the KMPT.

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    Why can't we spend all those dollars on solar and wind power. We never seem to learn from our mistakes (BP gulf spill)

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    Hyperbole. The trucks themselves will never be on the roads or on the watersheds. If you fear for tar sands production up in Alberta perhaps consider:

    1. Allowing land based directional drilling in proven reserves off Coal Oil Point in CA.
    2. Allow CNG terminals and pipelines.
    3. At least discuss nuclear.
    4. Allow exploration in ANWR.

    You can not be against everything and then get upset when another country finds tar sands economically viable. Allow some cheaper, proven existing fuels to be used. Wind, solar and geothermal will, at best, only supply 55 of growing regional power needs.

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      Kurt Chapman,

      The Alberta tar sands are even worse than all the other options you've mentioned (although there may be some hope for fast-breeder nuclear reactors).

      The tar sands are the dirtiest fossil fuel on the face of the earth- if you give any credence to the near-consensus scientific opinion on climate change, then the tar sands are an absolute horror, no matter how much money the Canadian/Albertan governments think will be generated!

      Meanwhile, Kurt, rather than blogging about how, in your opinion, we just cannot save the planet (as in, "Earth First!- we'll destroy the other planets later"), how about you yourself taking some steps (sell your car) and encourage others to do likewise. And take other steps- there are lots of them.

      (BTW, apology for earlier misspelling of "unconscionable"). (In case anyone is reading this).

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        You miss the point, Stephen. If tar sands are the venemous poison you describe, then loosen up and allow other viable carbon based energy sources or nuclear. Just because you worship at the alter of Gaia, don't demand that others do so.

        But since you were so helpful with your suggestion of how I should live my life:

        1. I replaced my HVAC December 2008, months before Obama gave away $$ to do so.
        2. I drive a 1992 Toyota pickup (no AC) with 131k miles that gets 28mpg. In the winter, because I travel from southern to central Oregon weekly I drive my 2000 Expedition 4WD with 204k miles that gets 19mpg.
        3. I buy local because it supports small business.
        4. I eschew plastic bags, but when I get them they are used multiple times and then returned to the grocer for bulk recycle.
        5. Oh yeah, done curbside recycling since living in Louisville in the early 80's. I don't need some nanny-state bottle tax inducing me to recycle. Plus, why spend $3 in fuel to return $2 worth of bottles or cans?
        6. Drink H20 from the tap out of an old SOBE green tea bottle I bought back in November 09.

        So Stephen, if you still feel the need to tell someone what to do; tell our governor to get rid of the ethanol mandate. It costs $$, removes food from the food chain, costs more in carbon to produce and lowers fuel efficiency.

        Or in the alternative you could go pound (tar) sand.

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          And don't even get me started on how ludicrous an electric car(chevy Volt) is costing $41k for a 40-80 mile trip between charges.

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          Kurt- I posted that there is a future for fast-breeder nuclear reactors.

          And I'm not sure what the total mileage driven on your vehicles has to do with this discussion- I do know that a 1908 Ford Model-T got 6 miles more per gallon that your gashog 4WD.

          Oh boy, you're on the cutting edge- a 112-year-old vehicle got better MPG than your heap!

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      Kurt, what are "CNG" pipelines?

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        Compressed Natural Gas, CNG, is normally stored for use at about 3000 psi. It can be trucked at that pressure, but is normally stepped down via an adsorption process to about 500 psi for pipeline transmission. It is by far a more environmentally friendly fuel and plemtiful throughout North America.

        Unlike its far more dangerous cousin, Liquified Natural Gas, LNG it can be handled rather easily. LNG must be cooled to -270 F in order to reduce the gas to liquid form and compressing the volume by about 300 times. While great for bulk transport it is highly susceptible to BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions) and not a viable form for vehicle use currently.


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    The gross weight of the largest trucks will actually be 580,000 pounds which includes the payload, push / pull tractors, plus the trailer. The 344,000 pound figure referenced in this column is the "merely" heaviest payload. That means the trailer tractor combos will be up to 240,000 pounds. Keep in mind that the transporter units have to make 207 return trips as well.

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    kurt, believe it or not, i'm actually open to exploring second generation nuclear plants. and the trucks are proposed to be on the roads - just ask the montana department of transportation, who has a fully developed highway plan for this project on their website.

    john, thanks for the clarification. you're correct about the additional weight of the push-pull trailers.

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    To really get the stupidity of allowing these mega-trucks on this route, you need to drive Highway 12 from Lewiston to Missoula, as I have quite a few times. It is narrow, mountainous, low-visibility and extremely twisty, and a road where care and caution would be needed if only sub-compacts were on it. (It is the last major highway to be built in Idaho, in the early 60s.) Logging trucks which have traditionally used it are a hazard there. Putting these trucks on it is totally bonkers.

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    Trish, thanks for sounding the alarm over this important issue. For anyone who doubts Oregon's economy is big enough to make a large difference in the fight against global warming, here's an opportunity for us to have a global impact. Oregon should not be used as a conduit for delivering one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet to the world market. As a state, let's refuse to facilitate the expansion of tar sands development.

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    Hwy 12 is one of my favorite motorcycle runs. Beautiful drive, but.....Tell me again how the trucks will harm the salmon.....

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