Megaloads foes abandon fight

Attention shifts to 207 loads destined for Kearl Oil Sands in Canada

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Friday, January 28, 2011

The opposition to megaloads Thursday abandoned its legal fight to prevent ConocoPhillips from shipping four megaloads on U.S. Highway 12 to a Billings, Mont., refinery.

The development means that nothing other than bad weather or mechanical difficulties could likely delay the departure of the first megaload from the Port of Lewiston at 10 p.m. Tuesday, said John Roper, a spokesman for ConocoPhillips in Houston.

The Idaho Transportation Department issued permits last week granting permission for two ConocoPhillips megaloads. The company has since also received clearance from the state of Montana, Roper said.

The attention of the megaload opponents is now shifting to the 207 megaloads ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil wants to haul to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, and any others that might follow, according to a news release issued Thursday by Karen Hendrickson and Linwood Laughy. The two are a married couple who organized efforts to stop the plans of the oil companies, and they live next to U.S. 12.

Laughy and others have already requested that ITD conduct a formal hearing where they can provide sworn testimony before the agency grants permits for the ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil megaloads.

At the same time, megaload opponents pledged to monitor the oversized shipments of ConocoPhillips. “We think it is important for local residents to understand exactly how massive these shipments are and what their impacts may be for traffic and business on Highway 12, but we do not suggest that anyone attempt to interfere with them,” Laughy said in the news release.

The ConocoPhillips megaloads are the heaviest cargo ever to move on U.S. 12, weighing about 650,000 pounds each counting the cargo, trailer, and a truck in the front and back.

ITD has imposed numerous requirements on the permits for ConocoPhillips including limiting the travel times to between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. The loads will have to leave the road every 10 minutes to allow traffic to pass in all but a dozen instances when they will go for 12 to 15 minutes at a stretch.

ConocoPhillips is paying for off-duty Idaho State Police troopers and a Lewiston ambulance to accompany the megaloads.

The trip will take four days, with stops near the Nez Perce/Clearwater County line, Kooskia, Bald Mountain and the Montana border, said Rich Johnson, a spokesman for ConocoPhillips in Houston.

The second ConocoPhillips megaload will depart from the Port of Lewiston on Feb. 5 at 10 p.m., and the other two will go the last week in March or the first week in April, assuming ITD grants the next two permits, Johnson said.

The reason for the delay is Emmert International, the contracted hauler for ConocoPhillips, is using the same equipment for the first and second megaloads as it is for the third and fourth megaloads, Johnson said.

The entire journey to Billings will take about three weeks. Then the equipment will be returned to Lewiston on regular semi trucks, Johnson said.

Each megaload is carrying one half of two drums that will be used in the rehabilitation of the Billings refinery. The drums are part of a refining unit called a coker that applies heat and pressure to convert components of crude oil into products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

ConocoPhillips has established a toll-free number to provide north central Idaho residents information about the megaloads. It is 1-866-535-0138.

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