01.14 Mega-load opponents pack Bonner Meeting; MDT & Big Oil fail to show
- Posted by Trish Weber
More than 70 local residents packed St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bonner Wednesday night to listen to a panel of local experts discuss costs that the mega-load trucks proposed by MDT and Big Oil would impose on the area.
From The Missoulian:
“The bottom line is that it really needs a much more in-depth analysis in terms of a complete environmental impact statement, and in terms of a broader public discussion with outside experts coming in that aren’t hired by ExxonMobil to look at some of these issues,” University of Montana economist Steve Seninger said.
Seninger and others poked holes in the environmental assessment the oil giant produced for the Montana Department of Transportation, a document that hasn’t been released in finalized form yet.
While the EA talks of a $67.8 million boost to Montana’s economy, Seninger said it doesn’t address costs such as potential job and revenue losses in the travel/outdoor recreation industry, or costs to taxpayers from potential accidents, traffic delays and disruptions of emergency services.
It also doesn’t look at the eventual cost to MDT and taxpayers for the accelerated deterioration of highway infrastructure, nor the costs to natural resources and the environment in western Montana.
Gentry has analyzed thousands of interdepartmental e-mails from MDT, his old employer.
“Throughout the process of MDT’s work… MDT personnel repeatedly brought up objections to the project,” he said. “They repeatedly, time and again, brought up impacts that should be addressed through the environmental review process, and by and large, most of those requests went unheeded when it came time to prepare a final environmental document.”
Miller said she drives Highway 12 on a daily and nightly basis, often with a six-horse trailer behind. She worries that the highway shoulder can’t handle the weight of the big rigs, many of which weigh more than 600,000 pounds and stretch 24 or more feet wide.
“Even though Exxon is telling us the probability (of a mishap) is near zero, the consequences if they are wrong would be huge - huge in terms of public safety, huge in terms of environmental impact, and huge in terms of economic impacts,” Miller said.
Interestingly enough, MDT, Imperial Oil, and ConocoPhillips all declined to send representatives, even though they were invited. Instead, they opted to issue a canned statement about how they are relying on the adequacy of the MDT permitting process to ensure public safety. Well, um, the adequacy of the EA was exactly what was under discussion at the meeting. Hrm.
Again, more meetings are being planned for Lincoln, Ovando, and other points along the proposed haul route. Stay tuned for more information.