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Eye On Boise

Montana judge rules against megaloads

A Montana judge has ruled against transport of 200-plus Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil megaloads through Montana, saying the state's Transportation Department violated the Montana Environmental Policy Act because it approved an insufficient environmental assessment. Idaho has approved the transports to the Montana line, though that decision is being contested; but the giant loads of oil field equipment don't yet have approval to move beyond there en route to the Alberta oil sands project in Canada.

Judge Judge Ray Dayton, ruling late Tuesday, partially granted a preliminary injunction against the transport, the Missoulian reports. He ruled that the environmental assessment didn't analyze whether construction at a similar cost along an interstate route was a feasible alternative, and said MDT didn't take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the project because it relied on the work of a private consulting firm, Tetra Tech, which was hired by Imperial Oil.  The judge said he could not rescind encroachment permits already issued by MDT, but blocked any further permits. “The practical effect of this ruling is that … activity which requires no further permitting or authorization from MDT may legally proceed,” he wrote. “However, as issuance of further 32-J permits, and any other permits … are hereby preliminarily enjoined, construction would be at Imperial Oil's peril, as it may ultimately be determined that such further permitting will be permanently enjoined.” You can read the Missoulian's full report here from reporter Kim Briggeman.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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