Quiet rides through Montana



A host of activist groups may have won the battle against Imperial Oil last year, but companies looking to ship oversized loads through Montana to the Alberta Tar Sands are far from done with the war. Megaloads are still rolling across Montana's highways, with the latest traveling as recently as last week.

Missoula used to be the leader of boisterous opposition to what many dubbed the "heavy haul." Not quite two years ago, more than 100 protesters lined Reserve Street as two massive ConocoPhillips loads passed through.

The activists won a resounding victory last year when a federal judge in Montana ruled against Imperial Oil's 207-load Kearl Module Transportation Project. The company chopped its loads in half and shipped them along an alternative interstate route. A test module stranded at Lolo Hot Springs was eventually cut apart for scrap.

According to one-time spokesman Zach Porter, Missoula-based All Against the Haul has since gone dormant—though he adds it could easily be revived if need be. Northern Rockies Rising Tide continues to offer updates on megaload news via Facebook, but has increasingly broadened its focus to include other climate change issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline. NRRT's last post to its own website was January of last year.

The vocalization against tar sands-bound loads has migrated across state lines to Idaho, where a mix of climate change activists and rural residents have repeatedly challenged the heavy haul in court and on the street. Fighting Goliath, the original opposition group along Highway 12, isn't nearly as active as it was two years ago, but a smattering of Wild Idaho Rising Tide protesters are still rallying whenever a megaload hits pavement.

WIRT gathered last month to monitor the shipment of oversized water purification equipment up Highway 12 by Oregon-based Omega Morgan. And activists put the call out again last week after the Idaho Transportation Department announced that a massive generator skid would hit the road Jan. 3. While the agency didn't cite that load's final destination, the company shipping the skid—Mullen Trucking—is headquartered near Calgary. The flagging team Mullen employed has escorted numerous megaloads destined for the tar sands.

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