Idaho Residents Sue to Halt Big Oil Trucks

By Beacon Staff

BOISE, Idaho – Three Idaho residents are asking a state judge to block the first wave of oversized shipments of equipment that oil companies are planning to haul along U.S. Highway 12, the winding and scenic roadway that cuts across northcentral Idaho.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Lewiston, seeks a temporary restraining order that would bar ConocoPhillips from hauling four shipments of big oil equipment from the port in Lewiston to Billings, Mont., where the oil company operates a refinery.

The shipments are scheduled to begin as early as Wednesday as the first wave of oversized loads planned for the next year along the corridor that traces the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers and was once traveled by explorers Lewis and Clark.

Exxon Mobil Corp. is considering the same path for hauling more than 200 loads of heavy oil equipment destined for the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta. Exxon officials have estimated that each load could weigh more than 300 tons, stretch nearly 30 feet wide and reach 27 feet high.

Opposition to the shipments has been building for months among environmentalists, businesses and residents of the corridors.

The plaintiffs claim the shipments, starting with the ConocoPhillips loads, could threaten public safety, harm tourism in an area that relies on it and pose a risk to the pristine river corridors.

The lawsuit also contends the Idaho Department of Transportation violated its own rules when issuing permits for the ConocoPhillips shipments.

“Whether Highway 12 will remain an outstanding tourist and recreation destination that provides jobs and revenues to the local community — or become a congested industrial ‘high and wide’ corridor for the conveniences of the oil industry … — are matters of great concern to the plaintiffs and many others in the area,” the lawsuit states.

Plaintiffs in the case are Linwood Laughy, a retired teacher who lives in the canyon, Borg Hendrickson and Peter Grubb, owner of a travel adventure business.

Despite the massive scale of the loads, state and company officials claim the trucks, using multiple axles, will have little impact on the highway’s structural integrity. Rules require the trucks, which will take up both lanes and travel only at night, to pull over every 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass.

The agency has yet to issue permits for the loads but is working closely with the companies on the travel plans.