Megaloads run into protestors in Missoula

Associated Press
March 11, 2011

MISSOULA, Mont. – A crowd of protesters in Missoula stood in the path of two huge loads of refinery equipment early Thursday, hoping to impede the giant rigs’ progress as they slowly paraded through town en route to Billings.

Hundreds of people stood or parked along the 15-mile route as the megaloads, which have been criticized by environmental groups, and a convoy of support and law enforcement vehicles made their way through the city.

“What we were trying to do is show our disgust with the trucks rolling through here,” said Susie Rosett of Northern Rockies Rising Tide, which organized one rally against the loads. “The idea was to try and impede them as much as we could and just try to slow them down.”

It took the ConocoPhillips loads roughly 90 minutes to lumber through town, and they were stopped frequently, in some cases for overhead wires to be moved or to maneuver between low-hanging traffic lights.

Two women – Carol Marsh, 69, and Ann Maechtlen, 50 – sat on the street and nearly 100 others stood in the way to block the first load’s movement for about 10 minutes, the Missoulian reported.

One person was cited by police and released, but Rosett said the women were just removed from the street.

“The kid who got arrested was definitely not part of the plan,” Rosett said. “It was one of those in-the-spur-of-the-moment things where people get really excited and they want to step it up.”

The loads, dubbed Lewis and Clark by moving company Emmert International, began moving on a 15-mile route south of the city just before 1 a.m. Thursday, traveled along Reserve Street and stopped on Interstate 90 at about 3:30 a.m.

Both loads are 26 feet high and 29 feet wide.

ConocoPhillips spokesman Rich Johnson flew to Missoula from the company’s corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, to watch the overnight move through the city.

“I think we’re going to consider this evening a success,” he said. “For me, this is just fascinating to see all this come together, all the planning that goes into this to ensure a safe move to our refinery in Billings.”