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ConocoPhillips says delays over megaloads ‘must end’

Fri., Jan. 14, 2011

Oil company responds to opponents’ appeal to ITD

ConocoPhillips says “the delays must end” in its quest to ship four huge truckloads of oil-refinery equipment along U.S. Highway 12 out of Lewiston, Idaho.

The big oil company filed that response to an appeal made to the Idaho Transportation Department on Monday by opponents of the planned shipments.

A hearing examiner ruled last month that the ConocoPhillips shipments from Lewiston to the company’s refinery in Billings may go forward.

“ConocoPhillips needs to get two coke drums to Billings to make much needed repairs to its refinery,” the company said in its response to the appeal, adding that the delay and opponents’ “legal maneuvering” has cost the company more than $4 million.

ITD also responded to the appeal Thursday: “The hearing officer applied the correct legal standards and properly applied the burden of proof.”

ITD wrote that the fact that Highway 12 is a state and federally designated scenic byway is “irrelevant” to its application of its administrative rules regarding over-legal loads, and that “Nowhere in the rules is the department allowed, much less required, to take into consideration these designations.” The primary purpose of the route is commerce, ITD said.

ITD spokesman Adam Rush said, “The director will review the appeal from Advocates for the West and responses from ConocoPhillips and ITD as soon as possible. There is no timeframe for his decision.”

The company argues in its response that the process worked properly and opponents had the burden of proof to show it didn’t.

“It is undisputed that ConocoPhillips and its transporter, Emmert International, have satisfied every requirement and have addressed every question posed by ITD,” the company said.

Foes of the shipments argue the huge loads present a threat to tourism, public safety and convenience, and could harm the pristine rivers along the proposed route.

The group of 13 residents and business owners along the highway called the hearing examiner’s recommendation “one-sided” and “unfair.”

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