Roadblock to megaload cleared; 16 arrested

Police have arrested protesters trying to stop a company transportating equipment to a Canadian tar sands operation.

Published on December 18, 2013 9:25AM

JOHN DAY, Ore. (AP) — Protesters trying to slow a megaload of refinery equipment destined for the tar sands in Canada used people chained together in a disabled car and a trailer for roadblocks in Eastern Oregon, but authorities say the obstacles were cleared in about two hours.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said 16 people from Oregon, Washington, Alaska and California were arrested Monday night in John Day on charges of disorderly conduct.

Portland Rising Tide spokesman Stephen Quirke said the moving company should expect “further resistance all along the route” as public awareness grows about how burning tar sands for energy contributes to climate change.

The giant heat exchanger for a piece of water purification equipment was manufactured in Portland, barged up the Columbia River, and is traveling on a huge truck through Eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and Montana into Alberta, Canada, said Holly Zander, spokeswoman for the transporter company, Omega Morgan of Hillsboro.

After the roadblocks were cleared, the load made 30 miles east, and should reach Homedale, Idaho, in four or five days, she added. Two more loads are slated on this route.

Indian tribes and conservation groups have been trying to block the movement of the megaloads since 2011, but some have gotten through. Last month a judge blocked shipments through Northern Idaho on scenic U.S. Highway 12 from Lewiston, Idaho to Missoula, Mont. The route was favored because it allowed transporting the loads on barges up the Columbia and Snake rivers to Lewiston. The Idaho Department of Transportation is considering a permit for another route on interstate 90 through Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Members of the Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes have been among those arrested in protests. The Nez Perce Tribe was a plaintiff in the lawsuit that blocked the U.S. Highway 12 route.

Meanwhile, mainstream environmental groups have been trying to persuade the State Department and President Obama to turn down construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry the tar sands oil from Western Canada to refineries in Texas.

In hearings over the U.S. Highway 12 lawsuit, lawyers for General Electric Co. subsidiary Resources Conservation Company International told a judge that delays in shipments of their water evaporation gear would cost the company millions of dollars.

GE spokeswoman LuJean Smith said in an email she could not confirm whether the megaload in Oregon was the same one originally intended for U.S. Highway 12.

Authorities said a white 2000 Toyota Corolla was parked in the middle of the highway in front of the Les Schwab Tire Center with a person lying on the ground outside the car. Another person was inside the car, and their arms were connected with chain, chicken wire and duct tape. A banner said, “No Tar Sands on Native Land No Consultation No Passage.” Palmer said a hydraulic cutting tool was used to cut apart the car to free the protesters.

Once that roadblock was cleared, a trailer was found blocking U.S. Highway 26 east of town. One person was chained to the axle and another was in the bed of the trailer. They were each chained to a 55-gallon drum whose ends were sealed with concrete, Palmer said.


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