Posts tagged: Highway 12
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has sided with environmentalists and ruled the U.S. Forest Service erred by not exercising its regulatory authority when the state allowed huge trucks to haul giant oil refinery equipment along U.S. Highway 12. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a decision Thursday that handed Idaho Rivers United a victory in the case. The group sued the government in 2011 after the state allowed ExxonMobil's Canadian unit to ship hundreds of so-called mega-loads from Idaho's Port of Lewiston along the two-lane highway. The roadway runs through a scenic corridor protected by the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. IRU claimed the forest service neglected its duty by not getting involved in the decision-making process. Winmill agreed, saying the agency has the authority to intervene in such cases.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge appeared sympathetic to an environmental group's contention that the U.S. Forest Service can intervene to protect U.S. Highway 12's scenic characteristics from impacts of giant oil-equipment shipments. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill told lawyers for Idaho Rivers United and the Forest Service Wednesday he'll issue a decision quickly, likely by week's end. Idaho Rivers United argues the Forest Service should have intervened in 2011 when the Idaho Transportation Department allowed ExxonMobil to haul loads between Lewiston and the Kearl Oil Sands projects in southern Alberta. Meanwhile, a Forest Service lawyer argues the case should be dismissed, in large part because the ExxonMobil loads have been completed via alternate routes. Even so, the Idaho Transportation Department continues to issue permits for so-called “megaloads,” as recently as last month.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― A large shipment of water-purification equipment will be transported through Idaho to Montana on a disputed mountain highway where big loads have been the subject of oversized controversy. The Idaho Transportation Department announced Wednesday a trucking company will transport the purification equipment on U.S. Highway 95 and U.S. Highway 12 next week. The shipment weighs 520,000 pounds and is 300 feet long, 20 feet wide and 22 feet high. Shipments along Highway 12, which parallels the Lochsa River through northcentral Idaho, have been the subject of heated debate after Exxon Mobil sought to use the route to get enormous refinery gear from a Snake River port to Canadian oil sands. Amid opposition, the company trimmed its loads and used another route. The purification equipment begins its four-day journey Monday night.
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 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.
Idaho has been losing $645,000 a year administering oversize-load permits including those for so-called megaloads, Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence reported today; the news came out when an ITD official briefed a legislative committee on pending ITD rules, which include fee increases designed to try to wipe out that deficit. “We're required to recoup the administrative cost of running the program,” ITD official Regina Phipps told the Senate Transportation Committee; you can read Spence's full post here at his “Political Theater” blog.
The Idaho Transportation Department has just announced that a giant megaload will travel on U.S. Highway 12 starting tomorrow night, headed from east to west. The load, according to ITD, is a pipe that weighs 185,000 pounds, is 95 feet long, 22 feet wide and 17.1 feet high; it will travel at night. The shipment is planned by Selway Corp., which is sending the large-diameter pipe to a hydro-electric project at Snoqualmie Falls.
This is the same route on which a proposal for large numbers of megaloads of Canada-bound oil equipment prompted lawsuits; it runs through a designated wild and scenic rivers corridor. Megaloads are wide enough to block both lanes of the winding, two-lane route, creating rolling roadblocks; Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil had planned to travel the opposite direction on Highway 12. The Selway load will be traveling from Stevensville, Mont., to Snoqualmie Falls, Wash. Click below for ITD's full announcement.
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.
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.
The first Nickel Bros. megaload on scenic Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, which crossed into Montana late Monday night, traveled without any state police escorts – and the Idaho Transportation Department now says it won't require police escorts for any of the company's eight remaining oversized transports on the route. Idaho State Police troopers traveling both in front and in back of each load were key points of previous permits issued for megaloads on Highway 12; the companies paid for the troopers' overtime.
Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Adam Rush said, “It was determined an ISP escort was not available, and upon reflection determined not to be necessary.” Instead, he said, emergency radio coordination was delegated to an emergency medical technician traveling with the shipments.
Opponents of the giant equipment transports on the narrow, winding road are steamed at the change, and say the state trooper escorts for the oversize loads – which are wide enough to block both lanes of travel, creating a rolling roadblock – have been described all along as key to safe transport of the big loads on the route. “To us this is a major concern of public safety and it's a major violation of what ITD and ISP has consistently told the public for 15 months,” said Linwood Laughy, a Highway 12 resident who's been a leading opponent of the giant transports. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
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.
The first Nickel Bros. megaload will roll tonight on U.S. Highway 12, the Idaho Transportation Department announced late today; the giant load of evaporator equipment is bound for a Weyerhaeuser pulp mill in northern Alberta. Wayne Roznowsky, Weyerhaeuser spokesman, said the company planned to start its shipments right away, and hasn't had permit issues regarding the Montana portion of its route.
A 14-day appeal period on Ness' decision is still running, but Natalie Havlina, attorney for Friends of the Clearwater, which filed a petition for a hearing on the project, said, “ITD has made it clear that they don't intend to wait for a motion for reconsideration or go ahead and let that run before … they authorize the loads to go. That is disappointing but not surprising.” She said she found it “very concerning” that ITD gave such little advance notice to the public that the giant load would be traveling. It is scheduled to travel between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., and take five nights to traverse the scenic north-central Idaho route to the Montana state line at Lolo Pass; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The Idaho Transportation Department has announced that it's issued a permit for Nickel Bros. transportation company to take its first megaload across U.S. Highway 12 tonight, bound for a Weyerhaeuser pulp mill in northern Alberta. The load will be 29 feet high, 24 feet wide, and 185 feet long, and weighs 567,650 pounds. The Moscow-based conservation group Friends of the Clearwater filed a petition for a contested-case hearing on the plan, which includes a dozen oversize loads, several of which are wide enough to block both lanes of the two-lane road, but ITD Director Brian Ness rejected the petition. Click below to read ITD's full announcement.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Here's a news item from the Associated Press and the Lewiston Tribune: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — State officials say cleanup crews are finally done removing massive rolls of unprocessed toilet paper that spilled off a truck and were lodged for weeks in the upper Lochsa River. Idaho Department of Environmental official John Cardwell says teams yanked out the final remnants of the rolls last weekend when lower river flows made the work more manageable. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/nbXqTf ) crews wrapped the rolls with a reinforced mesh before they were pulled out by a tow truck. Earlier attempts to pull out the paper was called off when the paper started disintegrating, creating an even bigger mess in the stream. The landed in the water after a truck hauling the load along U.S. Highway 12 slid into the river. The driver was cited for inattentive driving.
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.
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.”