BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Associated Press is reporting that a hearing officer has recommended the Idaho Transportation Department issue permits to ConocoPhillips to move four giant truckloads of equipment across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho.
The permits were the subject of earlier hearings in Boise, in which opponents argued that the trucks would block the twisting, two-lane road entirely, creating safety concerns, in addition to possibly damaging the pristine river environment and harming tourism.
The transportation department previously had issued permits for the four loads, but they were suspended while the permits were contested.
The Statesman newspaper, in Boise, said the state transportation department director will make the final ruling on the shipments based on hearing officer Merlyn Clark’s ruling.
ConocoPhillips wants to move the loads of equipment from the Port of Lewiston to its refinery in Billings.
In addition, Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil plans to send 207 extra-large loads of equipment along the route from the Port of Lewiston, across Idaho on Highway 12 and up through Montana to Canada for its Alberta oil sands project. Those shipments would run for a year. A Korean firm also has contacted ITD about sending dozens more giant loads along the same route.
Those future shipments weren’t considered in the ConocoPhillips permits.
The trucks are so huge that they’ll take up both lanes of the two-lane highway; running at night, they’ll pull over every 15 minutes to let other traffic pass, which otherwise will be blocked.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wrote a letter to Port of Lewiston commissioners in 2009 in support of the more than 200 Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil shipments.
Opponents, however, say they didn’t hear about the plans until this April.
This story is developing; check back for updates.