Idaho Transportation Department Hearing Officer Merlyn Clark on Nov. 23 found opponents have standing to formally contest over-legal loads ConocoPhillips proposes to ship on U.S. 12 from the Port of Lewiston to Billings, Mont.
The decision means opponents have a right to contest permits for the loads, the Idaho Transportation Department said. ITD Director Brian W. Ness will review the recommendation and decide the final action of the department.
“We live here, we work here, and we recreate here. This is our home,” said Linwood Laughy, a Kooskia-area resident and an opponent. “If we didn’t have standing in this matter who would.”
A contested case hearing will enable the public to get a comprehensive look at this situation and the costs to Idahoans of converting this highway into a “mega-load truck route,” he said.
ConocoPhillips spokesman Bill Stephens said the company is disappointed with the recommendation, which could delay planned maintenance at the Billings refinery.
“We do not believe the recommendation adequately accounts for the careful planning by ConocoPhillips, (hauling contractor) Emmert International, the ITD, and other state and local agencies. We are well prepared to transport our refinery equipment safely and in a way that protects roads and accommodates traffic flow.”
Clark said in his decision that opponents’ petition to intervene shows “direct and substantial interest” in the proceeding and that because there has been no final order in this contested case, the Idaho Transportation Department must hold formal contested-case hearings before the over-legal loads are allowed to travel under the permit.
In a Nov. 19 hearing before Clark, ConocoPhillips argued the impacts the opponents allege are speculative, so the opponents should not be deemed to have formal standing.