Soft Blockade Against Megaload in Missoula Continues 8-Day Rolling Stand-Off

14 Aug

Cross posted from KPAX

MISSOULA – The giant load of equipment has been parked in Bonner all day after navigating its way off the Bitterroot Divide, and through a handful of protesters that turned out overnight Tuesday in Missoula.

This load being moved by Oregon-based Omega Morgan is water purification equipment bound for the Alberta Tar Sands oil fields. Previous “megaloads” two years ago had generated some protests, and lawsuits, that eventually halted shipments for a time over the Lolo route.

But this shipment has struck an even sharper note with opponents, including environmentalists, local residents and the Nez Pearce Tribe, who turned out last week to slow the load as it made its Idaho crossing.

However, the shipment had a much easier time coming through Missoula. For the first time, a “megaload” made it all the way from Lolo Pass and through the Garden City in a single night. About 30 protesters showed up on Reserve Street, briefly blocking the way until officers convinced them to move along or face arrest.

While some opponents remain concerned about the traffic impacts of the megaload shipments, much of the concern is still focused on the environmental impacts of the shipments, and development of the oil fields.

“And it’s just part of a larger set of fossil fuel extraction issues that is sort of facing Montana right now. And we’re just kind of adding our voice to the mix and letting people know that we’re out here and we’re opposed to this,” said Steven Schorzman, protester.

“Things are not supposed to come out of the earth. Nothing is supposed to come out of the earth. Everything that is under there we understand is supposed to stay there,” said April Charlo, protester.

From here on, the Omega Morgan load will be making its way up Highway 200 and then north along the Rocky Mountain Front. Generally speaking, we’re not expecting to see much more in the way of protests, although some in Augusta and Choteau have been concerned about the traffic impacts of previous loads and could show their opposition.

A second load is ready to roll on the same route, but opponents are asking a federal judge to block that shipment.

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