Big load not a big deal

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board December 06, 2013 09:45 am

The “megaload” that headed south from the Port of Umatilla Monday evening has attracted far more attention than it deserves, its monumental name notwithstanding.

The water purification machinery is being hauled by truck to a tar sands oil refining plant in Alberta, Canada.

The “mega” refers to the load’s size — 22 feet wide and 380 feet long. Because the load takes up most of a two-lane highway, the truck will travel at night. The route follows Highway 395 south to Highway 26 at Mount Vernon, then east on Highway 26 through Vale. About 25 miles of the route — from near Austin Junction through Unity to near Ironside — is in Baker County.

This first of three planned megaloads has garnered publicity not only because of its size, but also because protesters managed to delay its departure from the Port of Umatilla for one day. Two protesters locked themselves to the truck on Sunday. Both were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Protesters have two main objections to the megaload: that the tar sands oil operation will contribute to global warming, and that the megaload itself poses a risk to the Eastern Oregon environment.

As for the first complaint, there’s no reason to believe that the oil plant will be abandoned because one load of equipment is delayed. We would respect the protesters if they pursued their grievance in a legal way through the courts or environmental regulations. That method not only has a better chance of succeeding, but it also doesn’t affect the trucking company and other workers who are trying to make a living in a legal enterprise. Those workers are far more likely to be harmed by protests than the owners of the oil company are.

The concern about direct damage from the megaload seems to us greatly exaggerated. Every day trucks on Interstate 84 and trains on the Union Pacific tracks haul vastly more dangerous cargo, at much higher speeds, through the region.

The megaload itself contains no hazardous materials, save for the diesel in the truck that’s hauling it.

Its very size, which requires that the truck travel no faster than 35 mph, makes an accident unlikely.