Permitting of ConocoPhillips megaloads a mega-mistake

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department continued to neglect its responsibility to Idahoans this afternoon when Director Brian Ness accepted a prior recommendation that will allow shipment of four massive megaloads of oil refinery equipment on a rural, riverside road.

“ITD has failed to fully address concerns from citizens, business owners, the U.S. Forest Service, Nez Perce Tribe and visitors to the beautiful Clearwater and Locsha river corridor,” said IRU Conservation Policy Director Kevin Lewis. “Permitting even four megaload shipments sets a dangerous precedent as the state moves forward with consideration of hundreds of additional massive shipments by ExxonMobil and others.

“The conversion of Highway 12 into a high and wide industrial transportation route will forever alter and degrade the many scenic and recreational qualities of the Clearwater and Lochsa river corridor. This is the ancestral homeland of the Nez Perce Tribe, a federally protected Wild & Scenic River corridor, a Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, and an All American Road. Megaloads are clearly an inappropriate use for such a national treasure.” 

Earlier today, Ness issued a decision to accept the recommendations of ITD Hearing Officer Merlyn Clark to approve shipment of four ConocoPhillips owned coke drums from the Port of Lewiston to the Montana border.

The decision followed a two-day expedited hearing in December during which 15 intervenors from the Clearwater and Locha river valleys challenged the issuance of state permits for the shipments.

Many issues were not addressed at that hearing, including the link between these first four shipments and the hundreds of additional proposed shipments in the next year, social and recreational issues, and potential environmental ramifications.

“For example,” Lewis said, “ITD failed to recognize its obligation to consider the Wild & Scenic river qualities that may be degraded by these shipments.”