Imperial Oil/Exxon big rigs EA gets unfriendly reception at meeting

A University of Montana economist and others tear EA apart-

It’s amazing to me that they think they can get approval by doing a mere environmental analysis report (EA) for over 200 megaloads on Montana’s highways.*

At any rate, University of Montana economist Steve Seninger and others showed the huge defect in the EA’s claim that the megaloads would give a $67.8 million benefit to Montana’s economy. There was no discussion of monetary and other costs.  In other words, the EA writes of gross benefits, when it is net benefits (if there are any) that matters.

The costs are  revenue losses in the travel/outdoor recreation industry, costs to taxpayers from accidents, traffic delays and disruptions of emergency services, premature wear of Montana’s highways and harm to wildlife, water, agriculture and timber in Western Montana.

In Idaho, Butch Otter, the Farm Bureau and others, and in Montana, a similar bunch of people speak of the job benefits, but “What you end up with is basically something less than 82 jobs for the ExxonMobil transportation project, and those jobs are primarily lower wage, lower skilled jobs in terms of flagholders and driving some of the advance cars and rear cars,”[economist] Seninger said. “In my mind, you don’t have to be an economist to say that’s really not an employment machine.”

The fact that these are low wage, low skill jobs to move sophisticated oil equipment from the far east to Alberta is why I have been calling them “jobs for peasants.”

Story: Imperial Oil/Exxon big rigs EA draws ire. By Kim Briggeman. The Missoulian.

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*To understand the controversy, folks need to mentally separate the first, 4 megaloads that are bound for the oil refinery in Billings, Montana from the 200+ bound for Alberta’s tar sand pits.





  1. S.Smith - RealTaiji Avatar

    What about big environmental disasters 1, 2, 5, or 10 years from the use of the heavy machines…I’d hope they’d figure that into the equation too.

  2. mikarooni Avatar

    The unions in Alberta continue to point out that there was no need to build these monsters overseas; the union shops in Alberta have built similar units right there in Alberta, some even built right onsite with no need for transport other than the materials, and could have built these, creating/sustaining a lot more than 82 “jobs for peasants” in the process. They contend that they could have built the units for Billings, onsite in Billings, and could have used and trained Americans for most of the work force. This approach would have trained and sustained skilled North American heavy fabrication jobs, the kind that build countries and sustain societies. Instead, these slithering oil companies chose to drop a few more bucks on their filthy bottom line by shipping the work to sweatshops overseas, building those countries and economies, and, aided by their sycophantic political minions and the redneck stupidity of the yokels, externalizing the costs of shipping the units back here by dumping the highway damage, quality of life, and local business disruptions onto others. Michael Moore should do another movie, about this travesty; but, instead of his usual “just the facts” documentary, he ought to get Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to spice it up with extraneous nonsense. Then, maybe, the rubes will watch and get the picture by osmosis.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      What is really amazing about this mess, now with the delays and such, estimates are saying it would have been substantially less expensive to have built on site than overseas. So now they are tripping over dollars to save pennies..

      1. PointsWest Avatar

        Welders have a strong Union and typically cost $85 an hour or more. The fact that companies will go to such great lenths to fabricate something like this overseas and then ship over something like Lolo pass should give you an idea of how expesive it is to build anything in the US.

        They might have saved a million or more fabricating this overseas. Five grand in Gov Otter pocket and another $100,000 in legals fees fighting off lawsuits is peanuts.

      2. Save bears Avatar


        With the delays, they have lost Millions of dollars already and even with the permits being issued, the situation is not over, there will be more delays and the state of Montana has not even started to issue permits as of yet, I am sure there will be lawsuits in the state of Montana as well and now I am hearing rumors that the US Forest Service is considering filing a Federal Lawsuit because much of the area for transport is in US Forest Service lands.

        Nope, this one is a long ways from being settled.

      3. PointsWest Avatar


        I am an Engineer and a professional CPM scheduler in the construciton industry. I make my living scheduling large $100 million plus construction projects and by documenting delays, determining the cost of delays, and arguing for compensation for delays. I have worked on delay claims in the tens of millions of dollars…one over $100 million.

        I do not know anything about this project where these tanks are destine. You could be right. I could be wrong about how much money the contractor saved in having the tanks fabricated in Korea too. They may have saved tens of millions by having these tanks fabricated in Korea. I don’t know the specifics of this project.

        My point was a general one. Contractors can save millions of dollars by purchasing fabricated or manufactured items overseas.

        Most (maybe all) federal construction contracts include a “buy American” clause that will pay an additional 10% for good and materias from the US. In spite of this, many goods and materials still come from overseas because contractors and their subcontractors cannot buy American goods and materials at competitive prices. They can waive the 10% added payment and still make more money buying overseas. I’ve seen it on nearly every project I’ve worked on in the past 10 yeas since this law took effect.

        I am not arguing that this is right or wrong or good or bad. I am just pointing out facts.

      4. PointsWest Avatar

        From what I have read so far, I think the most likely scenario is that they considered fabricating the tank into two part but it would have been an added cost of several hundred thousand dollars. They then went to Otter and for a campaign contribution of a few thousand, Otter gove them assurances that Idaho would permit them to transport the fully assembled tank across Idaho. With Otter onboard, they decided to fabricate the tank in one piece and did not expect this much trouble.

        As to whether they have lost money on the delays, that really depends on how the project is scheduled. They may have given themselved a contigency for protests and transport delays. The tank may install without too much added cost near the end of the project…especially where it is in one piece.

        Does anyone know how the project in Alberta is going?

      5. Save bears Avatar


        They are the ones claiming they have lost money, not me..

      6. Salle Avatar

        Not sure how the situation is playing in Alberta lately but I do recall posting an article about it a couple weeks ago. But I also recall another article at about the same time that was focused on the fact that several pullouts need to be created on the Montana roads before this can all get under way, and perhaps some roadbed reinforcement, and then there’s the EA or EIS – not sure which – need to be completed, etc…

        There’s a lot of coverage on this topic to be found at Headwaters News and on the NewWest web sites. there’s even a book on it called “The Heart of the Beast” – I think it is. NewWest has a review available.

        SB’s right, it aint over yet.

  3. Chu Ling Avatar
    Chu Ling

    In Idaho what you end up with is basically something less than 82 jobs for the ExxonMobile transportation project, and those jobs are primarily lower wage. So what looks promising can many times be disappointing. While I am behind anything that leads to Construction projects in Idaho, and I understand the need for affordable housing, my biggest concern as a construction worker is actually finding work. In today’s tight economy is really hard to find detailed leads for jobs that are in my niche and suit me well. Until I stumbled across Dodge Projects, on another blog, I was really out of luck. I can’t believe how valuable they have proven to be. I really can’t recommend them enough.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      Not until Montana issues permits, which they have not done as of yet.

  4. timz Avatar

    “Ness said two permits would be issued by the agency Tuesday that would enable the company to begin hauling two of the four shipments starting Monday, weather conditions allowing.”

    Sounds like they are going to me.

  5. Savebears Avatar

    For Idaho,

    I know that there are three lawsuits that have been filed to prevent them from moving through Montana, so we will see how it goes…

    AS these have to travel through City of Missoula as well, there is some things going on with the City Council as well

  6. timz Avatar

    The article does say there is still time to go back to court here in Idaho as well. They better hurry if they are going to. At this point I don’t expect the courts to stop it though.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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