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Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Rivers United and the Nez Perce Tribe are in mediation with the U.S. Forest Service to end a lawsuit concerning megaloads on U.S. Highway 12 in northern Idaho. Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United said Wednesday the groups are seeking to have the federal agency come up with specific rules concerning gigantic loads traveling on the northern Idaho route that includes a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor as well as tribal land. The groups sued the Forest Service last year, and U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in September granted a preliminary injunction halting shipments. His ruling required the Forest Service to conduct a corridor review, and the agency on Monday released a document attempting to assess impacts the giant loads have passing through the rugged area.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Keith Ridler.
Firm that had sought to run Korean-made megaloads through Idaho now buying locally in Canada instead
A New Yorker article out today on the saga of the Highway 12 megaloads in Idaho, headlined, “Another Oil-Sands Challenge: Transporting Equipment,” has an interesting note in it: Writer Michael Ames reports that Imperial Oil, the Exxon-Mobil affiliate that unsuccessfully sought to move 200-plus megaloads of Korean-made oil field equipment over the scenic Idaho river corridor en route to the Canadian oil sands, is now ordering equipment that’s manufactured in Alberta instead.
Ames writes that by February of 2013, after legal battles and rerouted loads, Imperial was 61 percent over budget for the first phase of its oil-sands development. “From now on, Imperial is ordering its heavy processing equipment from Canadian manufacturers,” he reports, quoting company spokesman Pius Rolheiser saying that the Highway 12 quagmire “was a significant factor in our decision not to procure modules from outside Alberta.”
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A General Electric Co. subsidiary has given up its legal fight to haul the second of two huge loads of water purification equipment through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and will find another way to get the equipment to the Canadian oil fields. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/HjByVF) Resources Conservation Company International filed documents Thursday saying it was dropping its emergency motion to stay an injunction that prevented it from using the U.S. Highway 12 route. GE issued a statement saying the equipment is important to its customers and it will focus on finding alternative shipment options. Last month, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued an injunction that effectively blocked the GE unit from hauling large loads along the winding, two-lane road that passes through tribal lands and a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor.
Late yesterday afternoon, the Idaho Transportation Department announced four oversized loads from Omega Morgan would travel up Highway 95 from Lewiston to Coeur d’Alene, starting last night at 9:30, en route to I-90 to Montana. “Each shipment is 20.1 feet wide, 15.6 feet tall, 75 feet long and weighs under 80,000 pounds,” ITD spokesman Adam Rush reported. “They will enter Idaho from the Port of Wilma in Clarkston, Wash., using Idaho 128. Once the shipments reach Coeur d'Alene, they will travel eastbound to Montana on Interstate 90.”
Remember that Omega Morgan has had a giant water evaporator bound for the Canadian oil sands sitting at the Port of Wilma, stalled by a federal court order, since it sent a similar one across Highway 12 in north-central Idaho in August for a division of General Electric. The company argued that the megaloads couldn’t be reduced in size, and thus had to travel over the scenic river corridor, which unlike the I-90 freeway, has no overpasses that limit heights. The Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United sued the U.S. Forest Service, which has jurisdiction over designated Wild and Scenic Rivers corridor, and a federal judge halted the shipments until the Forest Service has completed a corridor study and consulted with the tribe. On Friday, the company filed a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
So has the evaporator has now been cut up into four loads? ITD says no. “The equipment shipped last night is different than the equipment proposed to travel U.S. 12,” said ITD spokesman Jeff Stratten. “That equipment is still at the port of Wilma.”
ITD reports that three flagging teams, two pilot vehicles and portable signs are traveling with each pair of shipments as they move up Highway 95 and along I-90, and delays for other traffic on 95 are required to not exceed 15 minutes. “Locations have been identified along U.S. 95 where the shipments can safely pull over to let traffic pass,” Rush said. Click below for his full news release.
A federal judge has denied motions from both a division of General Electric and the U.S. Forest Service to lift a ban on megaload shipments across a scenic stretch of U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill rejected arguments from the firm and the Forest Service that he should either reconsider the injunction he issued, banning the loads until the Forest Service has conducted a corridor study and consulted with the Nez Perce Tribe; or stay the injunction while the company appeals it.
The judge said he couldn’t issue such a stay unless the company, Resources Conservation Company International, made a “strong showing” it was likely to succeed on the merits in the case, and that it would be “irreparably injured” without a stay. “The court cannot find that RCCI has made a strong showing that it will prevail on appeal,” Winmill wrote. “Moreover, any likely damages are monetary in nature and not irreparable.”
The law also requires consideration of whether a stay would “substantially injure” the other parties in the proceeding, and of the public interest, the judge wrote. “Staying the injunction will cause the very harm plaintiffs complain about in this lawsuit, harm the Court has found would be irreparable,” Winmill wrote; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. The Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United sued after RCCI sent a 322-ton load, big enough to block both lanes of the winding two-lane road and create a rolling roadblock, across the route in August en route from Lewiston to the Canadian oil sands, and announced plans for another to follow. They contended allowing the loads without first studying impacts and consulting with the tribe would violate federal law, and could threaten environmental, historical and cultural values in the area, which includes the Nez Perce Reservation.
Friday U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill put a hold on General Electric's second evaporator, which was supposed to leave the Port of Lewiston today bound for the tar sands of Alberta. Then he stripped Idaho of its control over that and future megaload shipments along U.S. Highway 12 - and handed it over to the U.S. Forest Service and the Nez Perce Indian Tribe. Take a minute. Let it sink in. The state of Idaho no longer controls its only highway linking Lewiston to Lolo, Mont. You don't see that every day/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
The U.S. Forest Service has issued a closure order barring megaloads from Highway 12 through the Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic Rivers corridor in north-central Idaho, pursuant to a federal judge's ruling; you can see the order here. In a statement, the Forest Service said the route, from mileposts 75.2 to 174.4 in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, is now closed to loads more than 16 feet wide or 150 feet long; to loads that would take more than 12 hours to traverse that section of road; or loads that "requires physical modification of the roadway or adjacent vegetation to facilitate passage beyond normal highway maintenance." The closure order is in effect "until rescinded," the Forest Service reported; click below for the Forest Service statement.
Today is the day that Omega Morgan, the transport company at which the closure order is addressed, had planned to ship another giant load across the route for a subsidiary of General Electric, an evaporator headed for the Canadian tar sands.
The U.S. Forest Service has issued the following statement in response to U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill's ruling today halting megaloads on scenic Highway 12 in North Idaho: “In compliance with the Judge’s order, the Forest Service is preparing a closure order for mega-loads traveling Highway 12 between mileposts 74 and 174. The Forest Service anticipates its study of the corridor to be completed by the end of September and it will continue to consult with the Nez Perce Tribe. We are continuing to review the decision to determine what further action, if any, to take.”
Elizabeth Slown, director of public and governmental relations for the Forest Service's northern region in Missoula, said no decision has been made as to any appeal of the ruling.
Idaho Rivers United, the Idaho conservation group that joined the Nez Perce Tribe in suing to block megaload transports on scenic Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, called a federal judge’s ruling today in the case “a win for all who cherish the esthetic, spiritual and recreational values of the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers.” Kevin Lewis, IRU conservation director, said in a statement, “The judge has provided the time-out needed to complete the environmental reviews, tribal consultation and rule-making necessary to protect this beautiful river corridor.”
The group said the case has implications for other federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridors across the country. “Industrialization doesn’t work there,” said IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy. Lewis said as numerous large oil projects get under way in northern Alberta’s oil sands, “These companies, some of the largest in the world, can afford to build their equipment in Canada or find other routes to ship it there.” You can read IRU’s full statement here.
A subsidiary of General Electric that hoped to ship a second giant megaload over scenic U.S. Highway 12 in North Idaho next week in route to the Canadian oil sands said today it was “disappointed” with a judge’s order blocking its shipment, and defended its shipping plans. “While we now must review our options, we have addressed the safety, environmental and aesthetic considerations in choosing this route for shipment,” Bill Heins, chief operating officer of RCCI, the affiliate, said in a statement. The company said the equipment it wants to ship, a water evaporator, has “significant environmental benefits” because it will result in big water savings and less wastewater discharge during the heavy oil recovery process in the tar sands. You can read the firm’s full statement here.
Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, issued a statement today applauding a federal judge’s ruling ordering the Forest Service to halt megaload transports across scenic Highway 12 in central Idaho until it’s completed a corridor study and consulted with the Nez Perce Tribe. “The Tribe is pleased the Court’s decision recognizes the Tribe’s sovereignty and its rights and interests,” Whitman said. Noting the judge’s statement in his ruling that the tribe is seeing to “preserve its treaty rights along with cultural and intrinsic values that have no price tag,” Whitman said, “This speaks to the truth regarding the heart of the Nez Perce people and our connection to our homeland.”
“The Tribe will not let U.S. Highway 12, both through the national forest and Wild and Scenic River corridor and the Nez Perce Reservation, be transformed into an industrial corridor,” Whitman said. You can read his full statement here.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has ruled in favor of the Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United, ordering an injunction blocking further megaload transports on scenic U.S. Highway 12 until a corridor study and consultation with the tribe have been completed by the U.S. Forest Service; you can read the judge’s ruling here, and read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The judge noted that after he ruled last winter that the Forest Service had authority over megaloads on the route, the Idaho Transportation Department nevertheless issued a permit to Omega Morgan to haul a General Electric megaload over the route in August, an evaporator bound for the Canadian oil sands, and the Forest Serrvice objected, but didn’t stop it. “In an earlier decision in a related case, the Court held that the Forest Service must ‘enforce all relevant legal authorities, including, but not limited to, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act … .’ ” Winmill wrote in his ruling. “The Forest Service was taking the position that it had authority to review but not to enforce. Obviously, that was an erroneous reading of the Court’s decision.”
The injunction orders the Forest Service to close Highway 12 to any Omega Morgan megaloads from mileposts 74 to 174, “until the Forest Service has conducted its corridor review and consulted with the Nez Perce Tribe;” the company had planned to send another giant load over the route on Sept. 18. It argued that it will lose millions if it can't deliver the equipment to Canada on time, but the judge wrote that the company had been informed by the attorneys for megaload opponents back in April of the opposition and the costs incurred by previous firms proposing megaload shipments on the route.
"In April of 2013, plaintiffs’ counsel sent a letter to Omega-Morgan putting them on notice that they would be attempting to block any shipments down Highway 12 unless Omega-Morgan obtained permission from the Forest Service," Winmill wrote. RCCI, the GE division sending the load, "decided, however, to proceed before the Forest Service could complete its corridor study and consultation with the Tribe. In other words, RCCI knowingly put its loads into a position where the company would incur $5 million in losses if it must wait for the Forest Service review. Given these circumstances, the Court cannot find that the balance of equities tips in defendants’ favor. In fact, it tips the other direction due to the clear command of the Tribe’s Treaty rights, NFMA (National Forest Management Act), and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. For those same reasons, the Court finds that an injunction is in the public interest."
He noted, "The plaintiffs are not seeking damages; they are seeking to preserve their Treaty rights along with cultural and intrinsic values that have no price tag."
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LAPWAI, Idaho (AP) — Twenty-eight members of the Nez Perce tribe, including eight members of the tribe's executive committee, are charged with public nuisance infractions for protests last month seeking to stop a "megaload" from traveling through the reservation. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/17sW9yW) the charges were filed Wednesday. Tribal executive committee chairman Silas Whitman was among those charged. Court documents say those charged entered the eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 12 early on Aug. 6 "while traffic was attempting to proceed and refused to leave the highway." An arraignment is set for Sept. 20 in Nez Perce Tribal Court. Special Prosecutor Michael Cherasia was appointed to handle the cases. The equipment they tried to stop is to be used to treat water at an oil sands project in Alberta, Canada.
An exhausted federal judge, nearing his 10th hour in court, promised late today to have a decision by Friday on the Nez Perce Tribe’s challenge to continued megaload shipments along scenic Highway 12 through its reservation. “I don’t know when we’ll find the time, given what we’re doing now … but we’ll somehow have a decision out before the end of the week,” U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said after hearing an hour of arguments from both sides in the case; he’d been in another extended trial since early morning, a major white-collar crime case that had been expected to be wrapped up by now, but instead has several weeks left.
Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, welcomed the prospect of a quick decision. “We need the word one way or another, what’s going to happen,” he said. Whitman said he’s “very concerned” about the prospect of another giant load traversing the route as soon as Sept. 18; Whitman was among those arrested in protests of an earlier, similar load in August. "They’re pushing us into a corner,” he said, “and the last time we were pushed, we left and tried to go to Canada. We’re tired of being pushed into corners to carry out manifest destiny. That’s not the name of the game any more.”
Bill Heins, vice president and chief operating officer for GE Water and Process Technologies, a subsidiary of General Electric, said he, too, is eager for the judge’s decision. His firm has a giant water evaporator sitting at the Port of Wilma awaiting transport to the Canadian oil sands; he said in court documents that GE will face $3.8 million in fines under its contract if the equipment doesn’t arrive in time. "We’re eager to get this piece of evaporator equipment up to the job site,” Heins said after the court hearing.
Winmill ruled last winter that the U.S. Forest Service has authority to review megaload shipments over the scenic route, which crosses through the Nez Perce Reservation, a federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers corridor, the national forest and numerous historical and recreational sites. The Forest Service has announced plans do a study of the corridor and consult with the Nez Perce Tribe over the matter, and pleaded with the Idaho Transportation Department not to issue permits for more megaloads in the meantime; they are loads so large that they take up both lanes of the two-lane, winding road, creating rolling roadblocks. But ITD issued permits for the August load anyway, and the Forest Service, while noting it hadn’t approved the load, took no action to stop it.
Monday’s arguments centered on whether the court can order the Forest Service to take action, including to close the road temporarily to further megaloads; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The dispute over megaload transports on Idaho's scenic Highway 12 heads to a Boise federal courtroom this afternoon, as U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill hears arguments from both sides. The Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United have sued the U.S. Forest Service for failing to block a megaload transport in August, after Winmill ruled last winter that the Forest Service has jurisdiction over the transports through the national forest and designated wild and scenic river corridor; the Forest Service had initiated a study and consultation with the tribe over the issue and asked the Idaho Transportation Department not to issue permits for the giant load while those efforts were in progress, but when it did anyway, the federal agency didn't stop the transport. Protests ensued as the load traveled the route, and among those arrested were nearly every member of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.
The giant loads are so large that they block all traffic on the on the narrow, two-lane highway, creating rolling roadblocks. Resources Conservation Company International, a division of General Electric that sent the big load and has another one awaiting transport on the route, has intervened on the side of the Forest Service in the case, and says it stands to lose $3.6 million if it doesn't get the loads to the Canadian oil sands on time. In addition, the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, which represents the oversized-load trucking industry, has filed to participate in the case on the Forest Service's side.
The tribe and IRU are asking the court to immediately block any further megaloads from the route until the Forest Service completes a corridor study and consults with the tribe about the transports, as required under an array of federal laws. "The agency cannot simply waive or defer its consultation responsibilities until after the management activity occurs because to proceed with enforcing its directives would be inconvenient or politically challenging for the Forest Service," attorneys for the tribe and IRU wrote in documents filed with the court. The Forest Service counters that it's made no final decision that could be reversed by the court, and still is studying the issue; it argues that if the tribe and IRU want to block ITD from issuing permits, it should sue ITD. Click below for a preview of today's hearing from AP reporter John Miller.
A federal court hearing originally scheduled for tomorrow afternoon on Highway 12 megaloads has been postponed to Sept. 9, after a company that’s already sent one giant load over the route this summer agreed to hold off on any further shipments until at least Sept. 18. The U.S. Forest Service asked Omega Morgan, the shipping company, to hold off on that first load until it could develop review guidelines for such loads and consult with the Nez Perce Tribe, in accordance with a federal court ruling last winter that the Forest Service has jurisdiction over the loads. But the Idaho Transportation Department issued Omega Morgan a permit, noting that it still had to deal with the Forest Service; the company then shipped the load, which drew protesters along the route, saying it’d consult with the Forest Service after the shipment, and the Forest Service didn’t stop it.
Protesters who were arrested included nearly every member of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.
The Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United then filed a federal lawsuit against the Forest Service seeking an emergency injunction halt such shipments. That’s what the now-delayed hearing was on. The owner of the giant equipment, which was being shipped to the Canadian oil sands, GE Water and Process Technologies, has now filed to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of the Forest Service; the court announced, “The proposed intervenors represented that no shipments will proceed over Highway 12 before September 18, 2013. In reliance on that, all agreed to the following schedule,” including rescheduling the hearing to Sept. 9; that will allow all parties to file required briefs and responses. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who also issued last winter’s ruling, will preside over the hearing.
Nez Perce tribal police arrested and cited 19 people for disorderly conduct in connection with the protest of an oil refinery equipment shipment traveling via megaload truck through tribal lands. The truck resumed its journey along U.S. Highway 12 around 2:30 this morning after members of the Nez Perce Reservation and other activists attempted to halt its progress. Helen Yost, a spokeswoman of environmentalist group Wild Idaho Rising Tide that joined tribal members in their protest of the shipment, monitored activity on social media and through media reports. She also spoke with several protesters at the scene as they returned to their homes around 4 a.m. About three-quarters of the assembled protesters were tribal members, Yost said. (Steve Hanks' Lewiston Tribune photo: Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee members (from right) Dan Kane, Albert Barros, Brooklyn Baptiste, Silas Whitman and Leotis McCormack take turns speaking at a protest of megaloads Monday night at the Clearwater River Casino)
The Idaho Transportation Department today issued a permit for a giant megaload to travel across scenic Highway 12 in northern Idaho en route to the Canadian oil sands, even though the U.S. Forest Service has said the load cannot be allowed without extensive federal review and consultation with the Nez Perce Tribe, and a federal judge ruled that federal agencies have oversight in the wild and scenic river corridor. ITD issued the permit anyway, which it said is effective starting Monday at 10 p.m., but also told the shipper, Omega Morgan, that it'll have to deal with the Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration. The load already has been barged up the Columbia River to the Port of Wilma.
“The shipper has met Idaho’s criteria to be issued an over-size permit," said Idaho Transportation Department Chief Deputy Scott Stokes. "We have issued that permit so that it now can be reviewed by the two federal agencies.”
The Forest Service had urged the ITD not to issue the permit, and took issue with ITD's position that it has no choice under state law.
The Lewiston Tribune reports today that the U.S. Forest Service is revising one of its interim criteria on megaloads at the request of the Idaho Transportation Department, but the two agencies remain at odds over the prospect of giant truck shipments across U.S. Highway 12 through designated Wild and Scenic River corridors and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, despite a federal court ruling saying the Forest Service has jurisdiction. The paper also reports that shipping company Omega Morgan wants to move as many as 10 megaloads from the Port of Wilma to oil fields in Alberta, Canada, over the route, and to press its point has already shipped two to the port, where they sit awaiting permits.
ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes asked the Forest Service last week to reconsider its position that loads that stop all traffic on the road require review. Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell, in a July 26 letter, answered back that he’d consider revising it to match the state’s standard for when a load requires a traffic plan, which would mean more reviews than the previous interim standard; click below for the full AP version of the story.
Brazell wrote in his letter that federally protected values that could be impacted in the corridor include recreation, fisheries, wildlife, water quality, scenery, historical and cultural sites, and tribal religious and cultural sites. “The State’s current position that permits will be issued regardless of the potential for such impacts seems to be in direct conflict with the recent Federal Court Ruling,” Brazell wrote. “The Federal Court Ruling made that clear by confirming the Forest Service’s role in reviewing permits in light of all laws governing National Forest Lands and the physical and intrinsic values associated with these lands. Idaho Code 49-1004 gives the State the discretion to issue permits but does not mandate permits to be issued.”
Yesterday, the Idaho Transportation Board held a special meeting in executive session reportedly to address personnel and legal matters, meeting behind closed doors. The board took no action and declined to say whether it addressed the megaloads issue.
The controversy over shipping oversize loads to Alberta’s oil patch through an Idaho river corridor took another turn last week, reports Spokesman-Review reporter Becky Kramer. Two giant water-purification units arrived at the Port of Wilma in Clarkston, but it remains unclear when, or if, the equipment will get clearance to travel through Idaho on U.S. Highway 12.
The units would take up both sides of the two-lane highway, creatinga rolling roadblock. A subcontractor for Omega Morgan, a heavy equipment hauler, has submitted a plan to the Idaho Transportation Department for moving the units through Idaho at night. However, the U.S. Forest Service is still in negotiations with ITD over the agency’s oversight role in the permitting process, pursuant to a federal court decision.
About 100 miles of the U.S. 12 route pass through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, encompassing a number of protected areas. The route is part of a Wild and Scenic River corridor, lies adjacent to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area and crosses the Lolo Trail National Historic Monument. In response to a lawsuit brought by Idaho Rivers United, a federal judge ruled earlier this year that the Forest Service has the authority to review the state’s permitting process. You can read Kramer’s full story here at spokesman.com.
The U.S Forest Service has turned thumbs down on the first of nine megaloads of mining equipment bound for the Alberta tar sands proposed to travel across the winding, wild and scenic Highway 12 river corridor from the Port of Lewiston to Montana. "The authorization of oversized loads needs to consider the continued enjoyment of this area by people traveling, living, working and recreating in the corridor, particularly during the season of heavy visitor use," Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell wrote in a letter to the Idaho Transportation Department; you can read it here. "The experience people expect to find is a narrow, winding road with beautiful views of the Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers and surrounding wild lands, with road-side turnouts available for them to take it all in This is the experience marketed by the ITD website and Scenic Byways brochures and is found in Forest Service information as well."
U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill ruled in February that the Forest Service has a duty to regulate such loads in the wild and scenic river corridor, whereas previously it had ceded that authority to ITD. Now, Brazell wrote, the Forest Service is reviewing any loads that will require traffic on the highway to be fully stopped, require longer than 12 hours to travel through the corridor, or require physical modification of the roadway or adjacent vegetation. The Omega Morgan proposal for the first of nine gigantic loads, this one a water purification vessel weighing 644,000 pounds, 255 feet long and 21 feet wide, triggered all three of those criteria, Brazell wrote. Plus, he noted that formal consultation with the Nez Perce Tribe would be required to approve any loads meeting those criteria, "which may take substantial time."
Wrote Brazell to ITD, "I appreciate your authority and expertise in matters relating to highway travel and safety and have committed my staff to continue to work with you as they have in the past to facilitate your management, operations and maintenance of Highway 12. However, the U.S. District Court has ruled that my agency has full authority to protect the Wild and Scenic River corridor and its values notwithstanding the State's easement for U.S. 12. I hope you will work with us as we seek to redeem our respective duties." Click below for a full report from the Lewiston Tribune via the AP.
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/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. (AP/Lewiston Tribune photo: Kyle Mills)
Question: Anyone been stuck behind one of these megaloads?
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.