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Posts tagged: ExxonMobil

Megaload opponents ‘gratified,’ say tourism is only growing industry along Highway 12

Opponents of megaload transports through Idaho's scenic Highway 12 river corridor have issued the following statement on Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil's withdrawal of its permit application to the state of Montana for the loads:

“The Rural People of Highway 12-Fighting Goliath feel gratified that the industrialization of the beautiful Lochsa-Clearwater U.S.12 corridor has, for now, been stopped and that the Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil threat to north central Idaho's outdoor recreation paradise and its single growing industry, tourism, has been removed.”

Meanwhile, a lawsuit from Idaho Rivers United still is pending in federal court, charging that the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration have failed to enforce federal laws including the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because they haven't moved to stop megaload transports through the designated wild and scenic river corridor.
  

Imperial/Exxon withdraws Montana megaloads permit application

Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has withdrawn its application to the state of Montana to haul more than 200 megaloads of oil sands equipment over Lolo Pass and through northwestern Montana into Canada. The company said it's already brought in all the loads it needs for the first phase of its oil sands project via other routes, the Associated Press reports.

Imperial spokesman Pius Rolheiser told the AP that the company has contracted for the demolition of a huge test module that has been sitting in a parking lot at Lolo Hot Springs since May 4, 2011. The load will be removed in chunks that won't require oversized permits.

The proposal to haul the giant, oversized loads across Idaho's scenic HIghway 12 to Lolo Pass drew legal challenges and protests in Idaho as well, though lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter welcomed the prospect. The three-story-high loads would have been wide enough to block both lanes of the two-lane road, creating rolling roadblocks. In Montana, environmental and traffic issues were raised about the route, and Missoula County, the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club all filed suit.

Idaho's Highway 12, a designated state and federal scenic byway, runs along two wild and scenic river corridors dotted with campgrounds, hot springs and historic sites, and roughly follows the route taken by explorers Lewis and Clark into the region two centuries ago. Click below for a full report from the AP in Missoula.

Last two megaloads in Lewiston scheduled to roll up Highway 95 tonight

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: The final two over-legal loads of oil field equipment at the Port of Lewiston in Idaho are scheduled to hit the road Tuesday night, weather permitting. Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser says the company moved three loads on Sunday night and plan to move two more on Tuesday. The loads will travel from Lewiston north to Coeur d'Alene on Highway 95. They will travel to and through western Montana on Interstate 90 and Interstate 15 and into Canada for an oil sands project. Both shipments are 24 feet wide and 15 feet high. One is 215 feet long and weighs 415,000 pounds. The second is 135 feet long and 255,000 pounds. Rolheiser says the company has some additional legal loads to move out of Lewiston.

ITD says megaload shipments can resume

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Transportation Department has approved a plan allowing large loads of Imperial Oil equipment to resume travel on the state's highways. The megaloads were suspended Dec. 6 after a driver tried to leave a staging area on U.S. 95 near Moscow and the equipment hit a passenger van. The truck driver was cited for inattentive driving. ITD said Wednesday it approved a plan to allow the shipments to resume. Two loads were to leave the Port of Lewiston after 8 p.m. Wednesday. A third module north of Moscow was to resume its travel Wednesday night, as well. The oversized shipments of components for a processing plant at the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada were to stop at a parking area east of Coeur d'Alene before entering Montana.

Megaload driver cited after crash; loads still suspended

Here's a news item from the Associated Press and Lewiston Tribune: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The driver of a large load of oil refinery equipment that struck and damaged a van in northern Idaho has been cited for inattentive driving. The collision on Dec. 6 near Moscow led the Idaho Transportation Department to suspend shipments of Imperial Oil equipment to an oil sands project in Canada. ITD spokesman Adam Rush said the agency is awaiting an internal report from the hauling company, Mammoet, before the license will be considered for reinstatement. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/v5ii7P) the Idaho State Police cited driver Vladimir Purgar of Calgary, Alberta after an investigation. Van owner James Urquidez says he ducked when he saw the equipment was going to hit his van. He says his side window broke from the pressure and his windshield was crushed.

ITD suspends megaload shipments after crash south of Moscow

The Idaho Transportation Department has suspended the ongoing Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil megaload shipments after a crash south of Moscow on U.S. Highway 95, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports. One of the giant loads of oilfield equipment bound for the Alberta oil sands crashed into a van, causing severe damage and pushing the van into another vehicle; however, no injuries were reported. “This was clearly driver error,” Idaho State Police Capt. Lonnie Richardson told the Daily News. Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser told the Moscow newspaper the company “won't move until we're confident this won't happen again.” Click below for a full report from the Associated Press and the Daily News.

Exxon plans freeway route for all its remaining megaloads, skipping scenic Highway 12

Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has applied to the Montana Department of Transportation to send all its remaining Canada-bound megaloads of oil equipment along freeway routes, rather than along scenic U.S. Highway 12, the Associated Press reports. The application covers about 300 reduced-size loads headed to Alberta via interstates 90 and 15; Exxon's original proposal to send more than 200 giant loads across the twisting scenic route's Idaho portion prompted protests and legal challenges. The firm then began reducing the height of the loads and sending them on freeway routes, including up Highway 95 from Lewiston to I-90 at Coeur d'Alene. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Matt Volz in Helena.

Imperial/Exxon spokesman Pius Rolheiser said the firm isn't giving up on the Highway 12 route. “Imperial continues to view U.S. 12 as a viable option, as a viable route,” he said. But with permitting delays experienced thus far, he said, the company wanted to have a “contingency plan” in place.
  

Moscow wants reimbursement for megaload policing costs

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Moscow officials want a company transporting oil equipment for Exxon Mobil to pay $12,800 for police services. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News (http://bit.ly/mT5GWi) reports the costs are from police services from July to September. The city plans to submit weekly reimbursement requests to Mammoet as it transports the gear toward Alberta, Canada's oil sands. Moscow officials said Mammoet is getting better at notifying the city when a shipment is expected. Another is expected this week, with two more shipments next week. The shipments, originally slated for U.S. Highway 12, have diverted through Moscow on U.S. Highway 95 while a court challenge in Montana holds up transports on the original route. There have been protests by environmentalists on U.S. Highway 95, too, including an Aug. 25 incident when six people were arrested.

Montana judge to rule next month on megaloads

The Missoulian reports that a Montana judge says he'll rule next month on whether to repeal or change his order to keep an ExxonMobil subsidiary's oversized oil refinery rigs bound for Canada off Montana highways. Judge Ray Dayton heard two hours of arguments Thursday on why he should or shouldn't rescind or modify his preliminary injunction against the megaloads project in Montana; click below for a full report from AP and the Missoulian.

Imperial/Exxon heads to court in Montana to try to clear Hwy 12 megaloads

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Imperial Oil of Canada is asking a Montana judge to dissolve or modify his order that effectively stopped huge loads of oilfield equipment from travelling along two-lane roads in Montana. District Judge Ray Dayton, of Anaconda, is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday in Missoula, the Missoulian reported Tuesday.

Dayton sided with Missoula County and three environmental groups in May in ordering a temporary injunction preventing the Montana Department of Transportation from issuing any more permits for pullouts along the route. Dayton said the agency didn't seem to adequately consider the impact of new turnouts along the route and the environmental assessment wasn't clear on how the agency concluded an interstate route wasn't feasible. Imperial, a Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., called Dayton's ruling unprecedented.

“There is no reported case in Montana of an injunction of such breadth and scope with respect to the use of a public highway,” Imperial Oil argued. It said the injunction had already cost the company millions of dollars because it had to disassemble 33 modules at the Port of Lewiston so they could fit on interstate routes. Imperial also argued that Dayton relied on evidence introduced by the plaintiffs that they did not bring up in court briefs, including the possibility that the project could lead to a permanent corridor for megaloads through the area.

Imperial said even if the injunction isn't dissolved Thursday, it could be modified to allow the company to move equipment along U.S. Highway 12 through Idaho to Lolo and then to Missoula. The company said such a ruling would also address one of the court's concerns: “No high-wide corridor would be established on the … route because the injunction would only be partially lifted.” The equipment is for an oil sands project in Canada.
  

ITD says no hearings on new Highway 12 megaloads proposal

Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness today denied a petition to intervene and hold a contested-case hearing on a new proposal from Nickel Bros. and Weyerhaeuser Inc. to run nine large oversize loads, including several wide enough to block both lanes of traffic, across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho. Ness ruled that all the issues the Friends of the Clearwater raised in their petition already were addressed in the contested-case hearings over plans by Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil to send more than 200 megaloads of oil equipment across the same route, and in an earlier hearing over ConcoPhillips' now-completed plans for four megaloads on the same route, so there was no reason to hold further hearings.

“A third contested case hearing is not warranted. The facts and concerns raised in the petition have been fully considered in two separate hearings and resolved by hearing officers,” Ness said; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

However, during the earlier hearings, when opponents raised concerns about the ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil loads setting a precedent for turning the scenic river corridor into a megaload-friendly industrial route, ITD stressed that it was considering only the proposal before it - and not any precedent. The latest decision suggests otherwise. “The law does not require nor allow a party to re-litigate issues and claims that have already been ruled upon by the appropriate authority,” Ness said in an ITD press release. You can click below to read the full release, click here to read Ness' full decision, and click here to read the Friends of the Clearwater's petition for intervention.
  

ITD chief rules in favor of Exxon megaloads

Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness has formally accepted the recommendation of state hearing officer Duff McKee that Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil be issued permits to transport more than 200 megaloads of Canada-bound oil equipment across scenic Highway 12 from the Port of Lewiston to Montana. In his five-page ruling, Ness ruled that administrative procedures were properly followed and all sides had a fair opportunity to present their case. Any party still can ask Ness to reconsider his decision by filing a motion within 14 days. Click below to read ITD's full news release.
  

ISP: Six anti-megaloads protesters arrested, future protesters warned

The Idaho State Police has issued a statement acknowledging that it arrested six anti-megaloads protesters on Aug. 26, after those people failed to disperse after repeated warnings, though other protesters did leave. “A large number of people lined the streets within the City of Moscow both in opposition and support of the megaload,” the first very, very large load of Canada-bound oil equipment to come through Moscow from the Port of Lewiston on that date, ISP Capt. Lonnie Richardson said in the statement. “Some individuals chose and were allowed to temporarily protest the movement of the load by sitting down on US-95. After some time was allowed for the sit down protest, an order to disperse was given. We appreciate those who acknowledged and followed the dispersal order.”

The six who refused were arrested for assembly to disturb the peace and refusal to disperse, Richardson said.  “The Idaho State Police fully recognizes, acknowledges and is sworn to uphold the constitution including an individual's 1st Amendment rights, and the Idaho State Police will not interfere with the rights of an individual to peacefully assemble and protest until it becomes a matter of public safety. Allowing the temporary sit down protest during the inaugural megaload transport on US-95, has afforded the opportunity for those interested to voice their protests in that manner.  The Idaho State Police now asks those that choose to protest during future movements of megaloads on US-95, to do so from the safety of a sidewalk or roadside outside the right-of-way.”

He added, “The Idaho State Police has no desire to arrest anyone for exercising their rights.  However, prospectively, those who choose to not comply with officers; directions to not interfere with the movement of any vehicle on a highway, by walking or sitting on the highway or otherwise entering or remaining on the highway after being instructed to move, will immediately be physically removed from the roadway and arrested.”

Megaloads opponents file ‘exceptions’ to Highway 12 permits ruling

Opponents of giant megaloads of oil equipment traveling on north-central Idaho's scenic U.S. Highway 12 have filed “exceptions” with the Idaho Transportation Department to the decision of a state hearing officer recommending issuing permits for 200-plus loads. “The director should reject the hearing officer's proposed findings, conclusions and recommendations because the hearing officer applied an improper legal standard, erroneously assumed the petitioners had stipulated to certain facts, and reached conclusions contradicted by the record,” argue the opponents, who include residents and business owners along the route.

The “exceptions” filing, which followed the hearing officer's rejection of the opponents' motion for reconsideration of his decision, goes to ITD chief Brian Ness, who then decides whether or not to grant the exceptions and makes a final decision; that final decision would be appealable in court. The prospect of megaloads on Highway 12 also is facing obstacles in Montana, where a judge partially granted a preliminary injunction against permits for the Montana portion of the route. In the meantime, Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has reduced some of the loads in size to send them by freeway instead, and proposed a new route from the Port of Pasco through Spokane, Coeur d'Alene and Butte on U.S. Highway 395, I-90 and I-15 to get the equipment up to Canada. You can read the exceptions filing here; it asks Ness to reverse and remand the contested case for a new hearing.

ExxonMobil has 50 megaloads in Pasco, awaiting OK to travel Wash. freeway route

It turns out that 50 Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil megaloads already have arrived at the Port of Pasco, where they're awaiting approval to travel up U.S. Highway 395 to I-90 at Spokane, then east on I-90 through Coeur d'Alene to Montana and north on I-15 to Canada. The Washington Department of Transportation is in the final stages of reviewing the application, which it received six weeks ago and calls for shipping 98 modified megaloads along the Washington route, headed for the Alberta oil sands in Canada. Exxon spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman White said the loads of oil equipment now in Pasco are full-sized modules, but are bolted together in a way that should ease their disassembly. The reduced-size loads that travel on freeways would be up to 15 feet 10 inches tall, 24 feet wide and 208 feet long, and weigh up to 345,000 pounds.

Washington Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Legg said there are no fixed structures along the route that would impede the loads; road construction schedules are being checked and bridge and pavement capacities compared. “We move a lot of superloads through the state - these are not unusual at all,” Legg said. “We move over 7,000 superloads a year in Washington, so this is part of our business.”

New route: Mini-megaloads could rumble through Spokane on the freeway

Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has announced that some of its controversial megaloads, instead of traveling a scenic route in Idaho, may instead rumble through Spokane on U.S. Highway 395 and I-90. The company said “lengthy permitting delays” for the original route across scenic U.S. Highway 12 from Lewiston, Idaho to Montana, then north through Montana to Canada, have forced it to look at alternative routes, though it still will pursue the Highway 12 route.

“We have met or exceeded the requirements typically imposed on other oversize load shippers that have used the U.S. 12 route,” said Chris Allard, Kearl senior project manager for the oil company. “We will continue to pursue the permits for those full-sized modules through Idaho and Montana, which is more efficient and cost effective. However, we will also move forward with alternative routes to maintain project schedules.” The firm already has cut down 33 of the giant loads of Korean-manufactured oil field equipment at the Port of Lewiston so they can be transported up U.S. Highway 95, then along I-90 from Coeur d’Alene to Montana and then up I-15 to Alberta, Canada. There, the equipment will be used in the giant Kearl oil sands project in northern Alberta

Now, it's identified an additional alternative route for similarly reduced-size loads: From the Port of Pasco, Wash., by truck on U.S. 395 in Washington and along I-90 through Washington, Idaho and Montana, then north on I-15 to the Canadian border. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Two more mini-megaloads get permits

ITD has issued two more permits for modified megaloads to travel from Lewiston up through Moscow to Coeur d'Alene, then take I-90 to Montana and Canada. The two permits, issued Thursday, allow for travel beginning Saturday night for one load, and Sunday night for the other. Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has been cutting down the giant loads of Korean-made oil equipment at the Port of Lewiston to allow them to be transported by a freeway route, while awaiting the outcome of permitting fights in both Idaho and Montana over its proposal to send more than 200 of the loads over scenic U.S. Highway 12. Click below for a full report from reporter Brandon Macz in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Hearing officer rejects megaloads opponents’ motion for reconsideration

Idaho hearing officer and retired district Judge Duff McKee today rejected a motion for reconsideration from opponents of megaloads of oil equipment on U.S. Highway 12, but the opponents say they'll now file another objection. Borg Hendrickson, a Highway 12 resident and one of the leading opponents, said they're “disappointed” with McKee's ruling, but plan to file “exceptions” to his decision within 21 days, as permitted by ITD rules. Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness then would decide whether or not to grant the exceptions and make a final decision, which still would be appealable in court.

The 200-plus giant loads planned for the scenic route on the way from Lewiston to the Alberta oil sands also are facing obstacles in Montana, where a judge partially granted a preliminary injunction against permits for the Montana portion of the Highway 12 route. In the meantime, Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has reduced some of the loads in size to send them by freeway instead. You can read McKee's five-page decision here; in it, he wrote, “Nothing raised in the motions persuades me that I have overlooked or misapplied the evidence offered in this case, overlooked or misapplied the law that applies to this case, or overlooked or misunderstood any of petitioners’ arguments as advanced previously in their briefs and presentations at hearing.”
  

The Montana court fight over megaloads…

The Missoulian newspaper today has a look at what comes next in the Montana lawsuit over Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil's proposed megaloads on Highway 12. Montana Department of Transportation officials say they'll continue to fight the lawsuit, to defend their move to grant permits for the loads, but attorneys for Missoula County and three wildlife and environmental groups said they, too, will press ahead with the case, possibly seeking a summary judgment. Imperial/Exxon is still evaluating its options.

Montana District Court Judge Ray Dayton's decision, granting a preliminary injunction against the permits, found that MDT violated the Montana Environmental Policy Act when it concluded that an interstate route was an infeasible alternative, and that the department didn't assess wetlands or floodplain information provided by Imperial's consulting firm, Tetra Tech; it also faulted the department's review of proposed new turnouts to accommodate the giant loads of oil field equipment. You can read the Missoulian's full article here by reporter Kim Briggeman. One modified megaload already has traveled from Lewiston north to I-90 to reach Montana on the freeway en route to the Alberta oil sands.

Meanwhile, this report in the Edmonton Journal suggests Imperial/Exxon may focus on the freeway route to move its megaloads from Idaho to Canada; it's already sent one that way.

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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