Oregonians are challenging the permitting of so-called “megaloads” of tar sands extraction equipment to traverse state highways en route to Alberta.
An Oregon non-profit called Act on Climate, in partnership with a local tribal chief, filed a petition in Marion County Circuit Court, Oregon asking the Court to require the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to seek public comment and consult with affected tribes before it issues the permits.
A megaload, refers to an enormous truckload hauled by a rig and trailer that takes up both lanes of a two-lane highway and can’t fit under a freeway bridge. Most megaloads are longer than football fields and require special state permits to drive on highways. A megaload that departed the port of Umatilla in Oregon on December 2, with equipment headed to Alberta was 380 feet long, 23 feet wide and 19 feet tall. It weighed 901,000 pounds including the truck and trailer.
The filing, a “Petition for Review of Agency Decision,” asserts that ODOT failed to meet its legal obligation to assess whether “the public interests will be served” before issuing the latest megaload permit on February 6. This is the third such permit that ODOT has issued since December. The most recent megaload to be granted passage through Oregon, like the two before it, is carrying giant evaporators that recycle the steam injected underground to melt out the bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. This bitumen, once diluted, is what flows through current tar sands pipelines, and what will in theory flow through the yet-to-be-approved Keystone XL pipeline.
“We are dedicated to stopping the Megaloads in Oregon before they reach their destination at the Alberta tar sands,” explained Peter Goodman, who represents Act On Climate. “The Megaloads are not just another oversize industrial cargo, they are the tools needed to contribute to the dirtiest industrial project in the world.
“Either we rise to the occasion of the Megaload threat before us or we participate, albeit passively, in our own extinction.”
Last summer, the Nez Perce tribe organized blockades along U.S. highway 12 in Idaho in protest of megaloads passing through their tribal territory without proper consultation. In September a federal judge ruled in favor of the Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United, This decision blocks any further transport of megaloads along scenic U.S. 12 until the U.S. Forest Service completes a corridor study and fully consulted with tribal officials. The injunction necessitates that the megaloads take a longer route through Eastern Oregon and Southern Idaho in order to get to Alberta.
Members of the activist group Portland Rising Tide and other concerned citizens are scheduled to gather at the Port of Umatilla Tuesday evening for a rally in protest of the third megaload now preparing to start its trek to Canada. In addition to opposing tar sands extraction on the basis of climate concerns, the protesters also fear that Oregon could become a permanent corridor for heavy haul equipment.