Friday, October 22, 2010
Three residents along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers filed a petition today asking the Idaho Transportation Department to hold what is known as a“contested case hearing” to determine if Exxon/Mobil should be allowed to transport enormous cargoes of mining gear over the narrow, twisty Highway 12 en route to oil fields in Canada.
“Seeking a contested case hearing with ITD isabout assuring the public’s right to make public interests known and aboutunveiling the secrecy behind a public agency’s dealings with giantinternational oil companies,” says Borg Hendrickson, one of the three residents seeking the hearing.
Hendrickson, her husband Linwood Laughy, and Peter Grubb of ROW Adventures filed suit in August to halt shipments of four enormous coke drums that a different oil company, ConocoPhillips, was seeking to trundle across Highway 12 and Lolo Pass to upgrade a natural gas refinery in Billings. A district court judge ordered ITD to revoke the coke drum permits. The issue rests now with the Idaho Supreme Court, which heard arguments Oct. 1 but has yet to rule.
At the same time that ConocoPhillips was seeking its oversize load transit permits, ExxonMobil’s Canadian holding, Imperial Oil, announced it is seeking permits to move 207 oversized modules to its open pit oil sands mining project, the Kearl Tar Sands Project, in Alberta, Canada.
“With Exxon’s 207 shipments, it is really important to get a full, public hearing on the issues. There has been, from our perspective, a lot of behind-closed-doors dealings,” says Laird Lucas, an attorney with Advocates for the West, the firm representing Hendrickson, Laughy and Grubb.
Exxon has already started to ship the so-called megaloads to the Port of Lewiston in advance of gaining any ITD permits. The Inlander has previously reported that the oil giant spent years trying to find a route to move the giant loads, the largest are 24-feet wide, 30 tall, 210 long and can weigh more than 500,000 pounds. Imperial settled on this route through Idaho and Montana long before residents were aware.
It just came out this week that the Idaho State Patrol agreed nearly two years ago to escort the megaloads.
People feel deceived, Lucas says. The transportation department, like all state agencies, is allowed to hold contested case hearings where various parties can present evidence and cross-examine witnesses before a hearing officer, who will later announce a decision.
Copies of the petition and the news release are available here.