Posted: Aug 8, 2011 4:55 PM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)
Updated: Aug 8, 2011 8:58 PM
After months of fighting with environmental groups, ExxonMobil is changing plans to ship "megaloads" of oil field equipment across Lolo Pass, opting instead to ship the equipment on Interstate highways.
Monday's decision by ExxonMobil and Imperial marks a major development in the on-going fight over how the companies will get gear to the Tar Sands oil fields in Alberta.
ExxonMobil had hoped it would be able to ship roughly 200-loads for the Kearl Oils Sands projects from the Port of Lewiston across Idaho, over Lolo Pass and through Montana to Alberta. But the plans have been under constant attack from environmental groups in both states, as well as some residents living along U.S. 12.
In addition to fights in Idaho over the permits for the shipments, legal battles erupted in Montana, where Missoula County joined the fight to block the megaloads going over Lolo. A test shipment was stalled at Lolo Hot Springs by the lawsuit.
Since then, ExxonMobil has shipped smaller loads over Lookout Pass on I-90 without incident over the past three weeks.
Monday, the company announced it's going to stick with that route. The shipments, which will be trimmed down to interstate size , will arrive at the Port of Pasco in the Tri-Cities, traveling north on Interstate 395, then turning east on I-90 and north on I-15 from Butte.
In a statement, the company noted it had invested $30-million in the Lewiston-Lolo route, but that "protected delays" forced the change in route so that the shipments could reach Alberta in a "timely and cost-effective manner."
The shipments, now numbering 350, will use the new route, except for the partially dissembled gear already in Lewiston, which will be reduced in size and moved north on U.S. 95 to I-90 in Coeur d'Alene. The company does say it will continue to try and get permits for the Lewiston-to-Lolo route.