BOISE - Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness has decided to hold full contested-case hearings on the ConocoPhillips proposal to haul four megaloads of oil refinery equipment across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, as recommended by a state hearing officer.
“I have reviewed and accept the decision of hearing officer Merlyn Clark that we should proceed with a contested case hearing on the issue. We intend to move forward with scheduling a hearing as quickly as possible,” Ness said.
He appointed Clark to preside over the hearings; the hearings will begin Dec. 8.
ConocoPhillips wants to send four giant truckloads of equipment across the route from the Port of Lewiston to its Billings refinery as soon as possible; it had hoped to ship its loads in August. Residents and businesses along the route are opposing the loads, which would take up both lanes of the twisting, scenic two-lane highway, creating a rolling roadblock.
Beyond the ConocoPhillips project, Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil plans to send 207 megaloads of oil field equipment across the route over the next year, through Montana and up to Canada for its Alberta oil sands project. A Korean firm also has expressed interest in using the route for dozens more megaloads of oil equipment bound for Alberta, starting next spring. No permits have been issued for those loads.
The Idaho Transportation Department issued permits to ConocoPhillips for its four loads, but residents sued and a judge revoked the permits. The Idaho Supreme Court then tossed out that ruling saying courts didn’t yet have jurisdiction, because the department hadn’t completed a contested-case process. As part of that process, Clark took arguments from ITD, Conoco and the opponents and recommended holding full hearings.