November 9 - The Associated Press has reported that residents along US Highway 12 have asked the Idaho Transportation Department to conduct formal hearings before issuing any special permits allowing oil companies to transport huge loads of refinery equip
This followed the decision of the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a district court ruling that had blocked the shipments (see HLPFI, Issue 16, page 10, 'US court blocks Idaho shipments'. But the Supreme Court ruling opened the door for the first contested hearings on the shipping proposals.
The Associated Press said that environmentalists contend that the huge loads, which require temporary closure of the two-lane highway, will disrupt public safety and convenience. They also complain the process for issuing oversize load permits has been conducted behind closed doors with little public input. Their first request for a public hearing was rejected last week.
In overturning the District Court decision, the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the case. Instead, it ruled that the decision was premature because transportation officials had not yet issued a final order on whether the shipments could proceed.
The loads bound for Canada must also get permits from Montana to travel through that state.
Opponents contend the shipments imperil the federally protected Lochsa and Clearwater rivers that parallel the highway. They would also convert the scenic road into an industrial corridor, ruining the experience of many people who use the area for recreation.