Today, Missoula County and the National Wildlife Federation - along with the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club represented by the Western Environmental Law Center (Missoula office) and local attorneys Robert Gentry and Summer Nelson - filed a lawsuit in Montana District Court to protect Montana’s citizens, economy and ecosystems from the potentially harmful impacts of Exxon/Mobil’s mega-load transport project.

In February, the Montana Department of Transportation erroneously concluded there would be no environmental or economically significant impacts from a project that seeks to drive over 200 mega-sized loads across Montana’s highways to the tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

Kyla Wiens, energy advocate with the Montana Environmental Information Center asserts that: “Exxon/Imperial Oil’s plan is shortsighted and ignores the project’s significant impacts on Montana citizens and our environment.”

The plaintiffs seek a full environmental impact statement on the project.  An EIS would evaluate a full range of alternatives, including alternative routes.  The proposed route across Lolo Pass, along the Blackfoot River and up the Rocky Mountain Front will create potential long-term costs to Montana taxpayers with wear and tear on highways, bridges and sewer lines. It will also create impacts to roadway safety, emergency services, prized waterways, tourism and business sites.

Sarah McMillan, attorney with the Western Law Environmental Center argues:  “The agency’s review of the project failed to take a hard look at all the impacts of the construction and use of an industrial corridor that runs along some of Montana’s most treasured rivers and streams, and through our scenic mountains and rural Montana.”

Additionally, the plaintiffs claim this project should be evaluated regarding its intended facilitation of carbon intensive tar sands mining and consequent heavy-crude oil production which contributes profoundly to the impacts of climate change in Montana and worldwide.

Sierra Club member, John Wolverton said: “As a trip leader, I have guided many people on canoe trips and hikes in the wild-lands that would be affected by these mega-loads. I want to ensure these wild places I care about are protected from degradation due to climate change and corporate greed.”

Tom France, an attorney with the National Wildlife Federation, added: “Exxon’s mega-loads put Montana at risk while locking us into a future of dirty energy from abroad.  Before we let polluters run roughshod through Montana we must have a proper review of the environmental costs and risks.”