BOISE – Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness has decided to heed a state hearing officer’s urging and hold a full hearing on a proposal from ConocoPhillips to haul four mega-loads of oil refinery equipment across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho.
“I have reviewed and accept the decision of hearing officer Merlyn Clark that we should proceed with a contested-case hearing on the issue,” Ness said. He appointed Clark to preside over the hearing, which 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 oppose the loads, which would take up both lanes of the twisting, scenic two-lane highway, creating a rolling roadblock during the nighttime hours when they’d travel.
“We feel this is another step forward for us, and we look forward to the hearing,” Linwood Laughy and Karen “Borg” Hendrickson, Highway 12 area residents and two of the leading opponents, said in a statement Monday.
Beyond the ConocoPhillips project, Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil plans to send 207 mega-loads 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 mega-loads 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 and business owners, including Laughy and Hendrickson, sued and a judge revoked the permits. The Idaho Supreme Court tossed out that ruling, saying courts didn’t yet have jurisdiction, because the department hadn’t completed a contested-case process. Clark took arguments from ITD, Conoco and the opponents earlier this month and recommended holding full hearings.
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