September 8, 2011 in Idaho

Idaho OKs Exxon loads on Hwy. 12


BOISE — The Idaho Transportation Department issued a final order allowing Exxon Mobil to transport oversized oil equipment on U.S. Highway 12 through north central Idaho.

ITD director Brian Ness said Wednesday that a permit already issued for a test shipment was “in full compliance” with Idaho law and will now apply to as many as 200 shipments bound to be moved from the Port of Lewiston to oil tar sands of Alberta.

Environmental groups and residents along the route asked Ness to reject a hearing officer’s findings allowing the shipments, maintaining they pose a safety and environmental threat.

Locals have worried the shipments could open the gates to turning the designated scenic byway into an industrial corridor.

They contend the loads will hurt tourism, delay emergency responders and could damage the fragile ecosystem adjacent to the narrow, winding mountain highway between the Port of Lewiston and the Montana border.

Though Ness rejected their appeal, the shipments remain stalled because there’s a preliminary injunction blocking Montana’s highway agency from allowing the loads.

Foes can still appeal Ness’ latest order within two weeks.

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