Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Huzzah! A Rode for Connock-o!

Posted on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 4:00 PM

What’s that, Lewis? Didn’t see this entry in the Corps of Discovery journals about the highlights of their trek across the West in 1805?

According to attorneys for Conoco-Phillips, the intrepid Capts. Merriwether Lewis and William Clark may well have cheered a petrochemical future as they bushwhacked over Lolo Pass more than 200 years ago.

That’s one way to argue for allowing wildly oversized loads to traverse the twisty, federally designated Wild and Scenic portions of U.S. Highway 12 from the port of Lewiston to Billings.

Conoco-Phillips is seeking permits to haul four giant coke drums over the highway for plant upgrades at a refinery in Billings.

In a related matter, Exxon-Mobil’s Canadian holding, Imperial Oil, is seeking permission to run 200 enormous mining “modules” over Lolo Pass and up to the Kearl tar sands project in Alberta.

Both companies say they have explored multitudes of routes only to be stymied by snowsheds, tunnels, low bridges or other obstacles for loads that will be up to 24 feet in diameter, 100 feet long and weigh 350 tons.

Residents along the route were surprised to learn this spring about the proposed oversize loads [the companies have been in talks with the Idaho Transportation Department for about two years], but the grass-roots outrage has won a ruling in Idaho District Court last month when a judge revoked transit permits.

Conoco-Phillips appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court — arguments are scheduled for 9 am in Boise Oct. 1.

In a brief filed on behalf of Conoco-Phillips, attorneys Erik Stidham and Brian Wonderlich argue that the scenic value of the Lolo Pass corridor ignores the real purpose of the Lewis and Clark expedition as detailed in a letter from President Thomas Jefferson. They write: “… the principal purpose of the Lewis & Clark’s Corp. of Discovery Expedition was to identify and locate a water route, ‘across this continent for the purposes of commerce.’” (Emphasis the attorneys)

Huzzah! A presidential order.

We just wonder if the Conoco-Phillips attorneys will be eating any puppies during their journey.

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