Skip to content

NEWS: Kearl tar sands project faces ‘all against the haul’ challenge

The Calgary Herald reports, “Imperial Oil (faces) legal challenges in the U.S. that threaten to hold up the delivery of more than 200 process modules from Korea to their (Kearl) mine site near Fort McMurray. The company was in Idaho court on (April 28) for a contested case hearing seeking to revoke transportation permits for the oversized loads. The Billings Gazette adds, “Imperial Oil finalized its case (on May 18) to speed the approval process for its effort to move huge loads of equipment from Idaho through northwestern Montana to a project in Canada. But District Judge Ray Dayton, who is hearing the case, said Wednesday he has not set a deadline for his decision and gave both sides 10 days after they receive the completed transcript of the testimony to submit findings and conclusions.”

The pieces had travelled by ship from Korea to the port at Vancouver, Washington and then on the Columbia and Snake Rivers to the inland port of Lewiston, Idaho. “On April 11 Imperial began moving the first of 207 oversized loads from the port of Lewiston, Idaho along U.S. Highway 12 to the Montana border where it was forced to stop after an injunction in a Montana court delayed permits there. …The Korean-made shipments are being halted by an unlikely coalition of environmental lobby groups, municipalities and local activists that have mounted court challenges in Montana and Idaho.”

In May 2009, we highlighted a Canwest News Service report that said, “The first phase of the Kearl surface mining operation northeast of Fort McMurray is expected to begin production in late 2012, Imperial said. Kearl is to eventually be developed in three phases and could ultimately produce an average of more than 300,000 barrels per day of bitumen over a 50-year lifespan. …It will have tailings ponds to be used to store water used to separate the raw bitumen from the sands and transport it by pipeline. (Imperial spokesperson Gordon) Wong couldn’t say how much water the project will use.” The Canadian Press recently reported, “The first phase of Kearl is slated to produce 110,000 barrels of oil per day. Imperial initially planned on adding two more 100,000 barrel per day phases. Now it aims to develop the mine in just one more phase, bringing capacity up to 345,000 barrels per day by unlocking spare capacity already in the system.”

Beyond the court challenges, a speaking tour against the transport of these huge loads of heavy equipment is being planned for June 13-17 in Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton, Lac la Biche, and Fort McMurray. The Council of Canadians is supporting this tour.

One of the speakers on this tour will be Julian Matthews. The Lewiston Tribune reports, “The Nez Perce Tribe has voiced opposition to the shipments. Tribal member Julian Matthews said he attended a protest (last October in Idaho) to warn people about the environmental dangers posed by the shipments if there is some kind of accident. ‘We don’t know how it’s going to impact the fish, the deer, the elk,’ said Matthews, who described himself as an avid user of the tribe’s hunting and fishing privileges along the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers. ‘We have treaty rights up there.’ Matthews said he was also protesting to show solidarity with the indigenous people of Alberta, who oppose the oil sands project because of potential harm to caribou herds. ‘I hate to see this thing because I don’t know how it’s going to impact the animals up there,’ he said.”

For more on the court challenge in the US, go to The US-based coalition All Against the Haul, a diverse coalition of over 70 organizations collaborating across state borders in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, is working to stop construction of a permanent industrial corridor for oversized loads destined for the tar sands of Alberta.