By Deb Courson

State officials say they followed the law. Missoula County officials and three environmental groups say they didn’t. Now, it will be up to a court to decide if the Montana Transportation Department abided by the state’s Environmental Protection Act in clearing the way for “megaloads” of oil company equipment to travel through the state on their way to Canada. Test shipments are hitting the road in Idaho today.

Tom France is a Missoula-based attorney with the National Wildlife Federation. He says the construction making the way for the loads has to be fully considered when it comes to impacts on tourism and the environment.

“It requires dozens and dozens of pull-outs to be constructed and much more pavement. The state has simply refused to analyze how this might affect some of Montana’s most cherished streams and landscapes over the next 10 to 20 to 30 years.”

France says another requirement of state law is a full examination of alternate routes when it comes to shipments this over-sized for small roads.

“If we are going to do this haul, it needs to be on the interstate system, which was designed for these kinds of loads. And the State of Montana has never examined that as an option.”

NWF, the Sierra Club and the Montana Environmental Information Center are plaintiffs, along with Missoula County. The suit, which was filed in Missoula District Court, asks that permits be blocked until a full environmental analysis can be conducted.