South Korean firm looks into using U.S. 12 for shipping

Mega-loads foes say scenic road could shift to industrial corridor

By William L. Spence of the Tribune

Saturday, October 9, 2010
A third oil company has begun investigating the possibility of shipping oversized loads down U.S. Highway 12, confirming fears on the part of some area residents the scenic highway could turn into an industrial corridor.

Harvest Energy Co., also known as Harvest Operations Corp., met with Idaho Transportation Department officials in Lewiston Sept. 15. ITD spokesman Adam Rush said the parties discussed the possibility of shipping 40 to 60 oversized truckloads of processing equipment through Idaho to the Alberta oil sands region, beginning in June 2011.

“It was an introductory meeting,” Rush said. “They wanted to learn what U.S. 12 was like and what (permit approval) requirements we had.”

Details were not immediately available regarding the size and weight of these loads.

Two other oil firms, ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil/Exxon Mobil, are already seeking permits for a total of 211 oversized shipments, some weighing more than 500,000 pounds. Both companies are awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit that questions whether ITD followed its own guidelines when it issued four travel permits to ConocoPhillips in August.

The Idaho Supreme Court held a hearing in that case Oct. 1, but hasn’t yet issued a ruling.

Harvest Energy is a subsidiary of Korea National Oil Corp., which in turn is owned by the South Korean government. The Calgary-based firm is currently developing the $500 million BlackGold oil sands project near Conklin, Alberta. The project is expected to produce about 10,000 barrels of oil per day from steam injection wells beginning in 2012; the company is seeking approval to expand that to 30,000 barrels per day.

A Harvest Energy spokesman did not return calls Friday. Port of Lewiston Director David Doeringsfeld declined to say whether he’s met with company officials.

Borg Hendrickson, one of the plaintiffs in the ITD lawsuit, said this latest proposal “confirms what we’ve been predicting since early summer: ITD essentially intends to change (U.S. 12) from a scenic highway into an industrial truck route on a permanent basis.”

Rush said the state is simply responding to Harvest Energy’s request for information, the same as it would for any company. Hendrickson, however, said ITD has taken on the role of advocate – discouraging public input, shielding Imperial Oil from public scrutiny, and bending or breaking its own rules to approve these shipments.

“We’re now talking about 251 to 271 oversized shipments in the space of about a year,” Hendrickson said. “How can you not think that will recharacterize this scenic byway into an industrial corridor? That can’t help but hurt our tourism industry.”

Another concern, she said, is the fact 85 percent of the emergency room patients at Clearwater Valley Hospital in Orofino arrive by private vehicles – vehicles that would potentially be blocked or delayed by these oversized shipments.

“Wrap it all together and what you have is a tragedy for north-central Idaho,” Hendrickson said.

Spence may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2274.