Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Judge denies large load permit for Conoco

Posted on Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 4:43 PM

An Idaho judge in Lewiston this afternoon denied permission for four giant freight loads to proceed out of the Port of Lewiston and across Lolo Pass along Highway 12 en route to Billings.

According to the Lewiston Morning Tribune, Idaho District Court Judge John Bradbury late Tuesday afternoon revoked a permit issued by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in part because it would have allowed the loads to pull over every 15 minutes instead of the 10 minutes allowed by state code.

He also said the department failed to consider consequences of a catastrophic accident and sent the permits back to ITD for review.

The four enormous coke drums bound for a Conoco refinery in Billings, would take up the entire width of the two-lane and twisty Highway 12, designated a Wild and Scenic Highway as it climbs through the Lochsa River canyon towards Lolo Pass at the Montana border. It follows the route taken by Lewis and Clark as they journeyed to the Pacific Ocean in 1805.

Even if Bradbury had allowed the permits, issued Friday by ITD, there may be little point in firing up the trucks just yet. Jim Lynch, director of the Montana Department of Transportation tells the Missoulian newspaper that his department is still working out issues with Conoco and has no permits ready for the Montana leg of the journey.

Conoco has been storing its coke drums at the Port of Lewiston since late May at rates as high as $8,000 a month for the first month, $4,000 thereafter.

The coke drums are seen as a precursor to more than 200 oversize loads of mining gear that Imperial Oil, Exxon/Mobil's Canadian holding, seeks to ship up the narrow highway starting in November. The gear is bound for the Kearl Tar Sands project in Alberta, where bitumen is being pounded out of the Earth.

Bradbury issued a restraining order last week to hear arguments from three Idahoans, including Peter Grubb of Coeur d'Alene-based ROW Adventures, which guides rafting trips and runs a lodge on the Lochsa, seeking a permanent ban.

A standing-room only crowd attended Monday's hearing in Lewiston.

(Photo courtesy KLEW-TV in Lewiston)

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