Megaload foes seek hearing

Opponents of shipments on U.S. 12 hope to convince ITD director to not issue permits

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Opponents of four
ConocoPhillips megaloads want an oral hearing before the director of the Idaho Transportation Department before he makes a final decision on the plan of the oil company.

The opponents announced they were seeking the hearing Monday when ITD was closed for Human Rights Day.

It’s the latest in a series of maneuvers the opponents hope will convince Brian Ness, ITD’s director, not to issue permits for the ConocoPhillips megaloads.

The oil company wants to haul two Japanese-made drums on U.S. Highway 12 from the Port of Lewiston, where they were barged in May, to a Billings, Mont., refinery that’s being rehabilitated. The drums have been split in half for the journey and would take up both lanes of traffic as they travel at night – pulling over at regular intervals to allow other vehicles to pass.

Opponents have a number of concerns including the traffic delays the megaloads would create. They initiated litigation in August that prevented the megaloads from leaving Lewiston.

The case went to the Idaho Supreme Court which indicated it had no jurisdiction, opening the door for the process ITD is following.

ITD appointed a hearing officer who heard testimony in December from the opponents, ITD and
ConocoPhillips in a contested case hearing. The hearing officer issued a recommendation backing ITD’s stance to issue the permits. Among the points the hearing officer made in his 57-page recommendation was Emmert International, ConocoPhillips’ hauler, has never lost a load in its 50-year history.

However that recommendation was challenged by the opponents on Jan. 10 and Ness has 21 days from Jan. 10 to consider the challenge.

The hearing the opponents are seeking is allowed by the rules governing contested case hearings, said Linwood Laughy, a leader of the opposition. “This should not be any long drawn-out process.”

ConocoPhillips isn’t the only company that wants to use U.S. 12 for megaloads. ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil has plans to send 207 megaloads along the same route bound for the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. The Port of Lewiston continues to recruit more business in the same category.

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or
(208) 848-2261.