HELENA - The state Transportation Department hopes to complete its environmental assessment by Aug. 15 of a request to run 200 big rigs through parts of western Montana to the Canadian oil fields, director Jim Lynch said Tuesday.

Lynch told the Legislature's Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee the department is working its way through public comments and what Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil needs to do.

It will reach one of three conclusions, he said:

  • That an environmental impact statement is necessary.
  • That the environmental assessment didn't reflect the issues and needs revision.
  • That the environmental assessment is adequate and an environmental impact statement is not necessary.

Lynch said 7,200 public comments have been submitted, with 6,600 of them identical e-mails sent through the website of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group. There were also 295 identical postcards sent by members of the Clark Fork Coalition, a Missoula-based environmental group.

In response to a question, Lynch said 87 percent of the comments came from out of state, while 13 percent came from Montanans.

He said the department received e-mail comments from 22 countries, via the NRDC website. They came from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, United Kingdom, Spain, New Zealand, Greenland, Brazil, Austria, Costa Rica, Thailand, Colombia, Japan, Argentina, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Czech Republic, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

They were commenting as part of the environmental assessment of Imperial Oil/Exxon Mobil's request to run 200 massive rigs through Missoula and the Blackfoot Valley en route to the Canadian border. The project is formally known as the Kearl Module Transport Project.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at chuck.johnson@lee.net.


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