Within days of a federal court victory by mega-load opponents, ExxonMobil announced that they were dialing up production at the Kearl Oil Sands Project in Alberta, Canada.
On Feb. 8, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the U.S. government indeed has the authority and, in fact, should have regulated mega-loads that have craweled across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho.
"This authority clearly gives the federal defendants jurisdiction to review [Idaho Transportation Department's] approval of mega-load permits that authorize acts along the river corridor, including the construction of turnouts along the river, the trimming of hundreds of trees, and the restriction of the public's recreational opportunities," wrote Winmill in his 18-page ruling.
Winmill's ruling, which was handed down only two days after final arguments in a Boise federal courtroom, was unveiled as two rocket ship-sized rigs were crawling across U.S. 12 on their way up to the Kearl Oil Tar Sands Project in Canada.
Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, told the Calgary Herald that the oil giant was poised to ramp up Tar Sands production during the next several months, but that the cost of the initial phase of the project, $12.9 billion, was $2 bilion over its 2011 estimate.
ExxonMobil blamed most of its higher costs on its decision to cut down many of its mega-loads into smaller shipments and take a separate path on Idaho's I-95 rather than U.S. Highway 12.
"This is up 10 percent from the prior estimate of $6.20 per barrel, driven by the cost to re-sequence work from the module transportation issues and the early onset of winter and harsh weather during startup of the Kearl initial development," said the ExxonMobil spokesman
But the company is prepared for higher production in the coming months. ExxonMobil expects to generate nearly 110,000 barrels per day of dilute bitumen, to be trasferred via pipeline to refineries where it is processed into synthetic crude oil.