Judge Halts Oil-Sands Shipment

Ruling disrupts Exxon refinery project


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A judge has ruled that a Canadian subsidiary of Exxon Mobile cannot ship equipment along Montana’s Highway 12 to an oil-sands field in Alberta, Canada. The shipment has been halted at the Idaho-Montana border since April, when environmental groups and concerned Montanans sued to stop its progress. The materials include roughly 200 truckloads of enormous 30- by 100-foot structures that Imperial Oil will use to build a new refinery at the Kearl oil-sands site. Imperial had planned to truck the structures, which were manufactured in Korea, into Canada via Montana’s scenic Highway 12, a rural road that traces part of the route used by Lewis and Clark. The ruling arrives on the same day that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer created a panel to review the safety of underground pipelines running through the state. On July 1, an Exxon pipeline burst, releasing 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. That spill sparked protests by environmental groups and led members of Earth First! to briefly occupy the Montana capitol on July 12. Oil sands, a thick mixture of sand, clay, and bitumen, a form of petroleum, are more expensive and environmentally damaging to extract and refine than traditional crude oil. A surge in petroleum prices in recent years has made Canada’s oil-sands reserves, which are among the largest in the world, increasingly profitable.

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