‘Big oil' plan in Alberta captures locals' attention

Talk about issues set for Wednesday

The Alberta Tar Sands are a long way from Southwest Colorado, but that didn't keep a Durango couple from getting emotionally involved in a “big oil” project that some see as an impending environmental disaster.

Bob Lang and Alice Outwater of Durango recently gave financial support to publish a book, The Heart of the Monster, which is part a treatise on why this project will adversely affect Idaho, Montana and our neighbor north of the border.

A discussion about the book and issues involved will be held Wednesday at Maria's Bookshop, featuring four panelists: Lang, a software engineer; Outwater, a water engineer; and Josh Joswick and Meghan Maloney of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.

Heart of the Monster was written by renowned environmental writers Rick Bass and David James Duncan. The 250-page, illustrated book was done last summer and hustled to print just as 2010 ended. Finding enough cash to print it was where Lang and Outwater came in.

Lang had been in contact with Duncan, learned more about the tar sands project and became outraged by ExxonMobil's plan to strip mine a huge area in Alberta for oil. He decided to help out. A foundation in his parents' names supported the publishing of the book. You'll find Lang and Outwater mentioned in Duncan's preface.

“I saw this as an opportunity offered to me to effectively help in an important global environmental cause,” Lang said. “It has been made clear to me the responsibility that we all have in protecting our Mother Earth, to protect against the taking away of things that can never be put back.”

Idahoans and Montanans have organized to protest against highways in their states being used to haul gargantuan equipment needed for the project.

On Jan. 29, more than 100 “megaload” opponents rallied on Memorial Bridge along U.S. Highway 12 in Lewiston, Idaho. These “megaloads” of huge machinery will jam and damage roads built for maximum loads far less than what will be transported, opponents say. The scenic byway will become an industrial truck route, they say.

The 207 “megaloads” will be more than 200 feet long, up to three stories tall and take up both lanes of Highway 12, according to the Missoulian of Missoula, Mont.

In his preface, Duncan calls Alberta Tar Sands the “most destructive petroleum project in history,” and decries the effort to turn the Northwest and Northern Rockies' wilderness into a tentacle of the project.

“ExxonMobil is leading the effort to convert 1,100 miles of riverways and scenic byways into a ‘High and Wide industrial corridor' that will connect the Tar Sands to the industrial nations of the Pacific Rim.”

The book was published by All Against the Haul, created by a Missoula financial investor and her sister to spread the word of the impending oil project.

johnp@durango herald.com

Correction: Opponents of an oil project in Alberta are concerned that roads are built for loads "far lighter" than what will be transported, not "far greater." This story has been amended from its original version.