Moscow mayor goes ahead with megaload opposition

Chaney’s letter to ITD conflicts with council’s decision

By David Johnson of the Tribune
May 25, 2011
MOSCOW – Idaho Transportation Department officials said Monday they received, and will respond to, a letter from Mayor Nancy Chaney in which she requests the agency deny permits for ExxonMobil to transport megaloads through Moscow.

The request comes after city councilors voted to not oppose passage of the oversized oil company equipment from the Port of Lewiston en route to Alberta, Canada.

“Moscow City Council has stated its belief that the movement of megaloads through the city would not have an inordinate impact on infrastructure or our community,” Chaney wrote in a letter to Reymundo Rodriguez, ITD’s commercial vehicle services manager.

At best, Chaney asserts in a letter sent last week, the council’s position is a gamble with serious consequences.

But Councilor Wayne Krauss, whose motion at last week’s council meeting led to a 4-0 vote, with one abstention, to endorse passage of the loads said the council can always monitor the situation and take different action if the movement of an estimated 60 loads causes unforeseen problems.

Councilor Dan Carscallen agreed, adding he fears efforts to block the loads through Moscow have little to do with transportation concerns and everything to do with opponents of big oil trying to throw up roadblocks wherever and however they can.

Most of the loads are targeted to be hauled over U.S. Highway 12 to Montana, but the U.S. Highway 95 route through Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and onto Interstate 90 is an option.

“Just because transport on Highway 12 may be deemed unnecessary and unfeasible doesn’t mean that transport through Moscow is a reasonable alternative, or that ExxonMobil does not have other options,” Chaney wrote.

The mayor said last week she was in the process of drafting her letter and gathering information prior to the council meeting. A megaload discussion, with no call for action, was the last item on the council agenda.

Steed said he decided further discussion, after public meetings on the oversized loads had been conducted, was not necessary. The motion was seconded and that triggered a lengthy debate about whether a vote was proper.

Chaney has said her personal feelings about oil as an energy resource does not figure in her opposition. She said she’s genuinely concerned that once the loads start rolling through town a precedent for continued transport will be set.

In her letter, Chaney cites several parts of the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act to bolster her position. “In this case, the movement is not necessary, inescapable, compulsory, imperative, or undeniable,” she wrote, “and there are feasible alternatives, particularly since the loads can be reduced in size.” ExxonMobil officials have agreed to cut the loads in half to make passage easier along the proposed U.S. 95 route.

“It strains credulity,” Chaney wrote, to suggest the transportation proposal through Moscow comports with the administrative procedures act.

Passage of the loads would also be in conflict with ITD’s mission, Chaney contends, which boils down to “Our Mission. Your Mobility.” She also says granting permits through Moscow is contrary to the department’s vision statement. She added ExxonMobil’s proposal runs counter to local economic development strategies, compact community development, and social identity including cultural tourism, technology, education, and quality of life.

Steed and Carscallen said the loads would pass at a rate of one per day around 1 a.m. and make it through town in less than 15 minutes. Both said residents, unless they plan to stay up late at night and go downtown to watch, would probably not even notice them.

Chaney also blasted ITD for seemingly trying to grant load permits by circumventing public awareness. “Although conversations have apparently being ongoing behind mostly closed doors for two years or more, Chaney wrote, “Moscow stakeholders only became aware of the prospect via email from a third party on March 22 this year.”

Johnson may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 883-0564.