Megaload foes try taking a different tack

Opponents wonder how it is that oil firm suddenly finds alternative shipping route

February 24th, 2011

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Opponents of 114 megaloads ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil wants to send through Idaho on U.S. Highway 12 are pursuing a new way to block the shipments.

The maneuver came as an oversize load belonging to another company, ConocoPhillips, remained stranded in Kooskia for a fourth night because of weather.

A group created by Linwood Laughy and Borg Hendrickson, as well Friends of the Clearwater, are asking the Idaho Transportation Department to reconsider its decision to allow the ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil megaloads based on what they describe as new information.

ITD’s decision contained a provision that, aside from a test shipment, the ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil loads couldn’t go until after opponents were allowed to present testimony before a hearing officer who will write a recommendation for ITD. The date for the hearing hasn’t been set.

“Throughout 2010, Exxon/Imperial repeatedly told Idahoans that no alternative route existed for these massive loads, but now 60 of them are being shipped to Vancouver via an alternative route and 30 more are also going to be shipped via an alternative route,” Hendrickson said in a prepared statement. “ITD’s decision needs to be based on real facts.”

ITD received the request, said Adam Rush, a spokesman for ITD. “Our legal counsel isn’t available this afternoon to review the petition.”

ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil wants to use U.S. 12 to get Korean-made modules for a processing plant from the Port of Lewiston to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.

The majority of the loads would take up two lanes of traffic, pull over every 15 minutes to let vehicles pass and only be allowed on the road between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

The travel limitations are the same as those placed on four loads belonging to ConocoPhillips each carrying half a drum made in Japan bound for a refinery in Billings, Mont., that were barged to Lewiston.

The first of those shipments is waiting just across the Montana border for the second megaload that’s in Kooskia now. The second ConocoPhillips megaload left Lewiston on Feb. 17. It has four more segments before it reaches Montana.

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