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ITD hearing officer endorses ConocoPhillips’ oversized loads

The Idaho Transportation Department’s director should allow ConocoPhillips to ship four oversized loads from the Port of Lewiston along U.S. 12 to the Montana border, ITD Hearing Officer Merlyn Clark recommended Dec. 28.

Clark, in a recommended order for ITD Director Brian Ness, said an appeal from intervenors should be denied. ConocoPhillips will be allowed to ship the loads if Ness issues a final order that agrees with the recommendation. Shipments could move as soon as next month.

Opponents failed to satisfy their burden to prove the Idaho Transportation Department did not comply with Idaho law when it first issued the permits last summer, Clark wrote. The department complied with state law and “placed a primary concern on the safety and convenience of the general public and the preservation of the highway system in determining to issue the over-legal permits,” he wrote.

Steve Steach, manager of the ConocoPhillips Billings Refinery, stated the company is pleased with the recommendation, and that Clark recognized the company has a comprehensive and effective plan. The company plans to deliver the equipment to Billings for refinery maintenance.

Kooskia resident Linwood Laughy, one of the opponents, said he is disappointed. The highway’s Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and All American Roads designations “seemed to be at this stage trumped by the needs of international corporations to make greater profits,” he said.

But Clark, at the beginning of hearings that led to the written recommendation, “made very clear this case was about the four loads and only about these four loads,” Laughy said. “The issue is much larger than these four shipments.”

Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil aims to ship 207 loads on U.S. 12 to the Kearl Oil Sands project in Alberta, but the Idaho Transportation Department has not issued permits.

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