New petition filed in megaloads case

Opponents ask state agency to intervene in the issue

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The individuals behind the Idaho Supreme Court case involving four ConocoPhillips megaloads are petitioning the Idaho Transportation Department to intervene in the issue as the agency weighs the meaning of the high court’s decision.

Linwood Laughy, Karen Hendrickson and Peter Grubb filed the action Tuesday, just one day after the Supreme Court issued an opinion indicating it had no jurisdiction in the case.

Laughy, Hendrickson and Grubb should have sought to intervene as ITD was considering the ConocoPhillips permits or requested a contested hearing, according to the opinion, which also reversed a lower court decision to revoke the permits ITD had issued for them in August. Those permits would have allowed the ConocoPhillips cargo to travel from the Port of Lewiston to the Montana border.

While that opinion appears to have cleared the way for the drums to begin their journey to a Billings, Mont., refinery, ITD has yet to make any announcement of what happens next.

David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston, said Wednesday he wasn’t seeing an indication the rigs carrying the ConocoPhillips equipment are about to move.

The litigation has attracted national attention for a variety of reasons. The ConocoPhillips loads would consume two lanes of traffic as they travel on U.S. Highway 12, where they would be the heaviest load ever to use the road.

Supporters and opponents of the megaloads have debated about if the conditions ITD has promised to impose on the ConocoPhillips loads and others like it are enough to preserve public safety and the pristine nature of the twisting river canyon along the route.

The ITD conditions including traveling only at night, pulling over every 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass and being escorted by Idaho State Police officers who would be paid for by the oil company.

Many are concerned about how many megaloads will follow ConocoPhillips. Imperial Oil has 16 Korean-made modules bound for the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, waiting at the Port of Lewiston. ITD has issued no permits for them in part because it had been awaiting the outcome of the ConocoPhillips case. The 16 are the first of 200 that would head to Canada from Lewiston in the coming year.

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