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Mega-Loads: Ready to Roll Down the Road or Back to Court?

January 25, 2011

KOOSKIA, Idaho - Four oversized ConocoPhilips machinery loads are scheduled to travel Idaho's U.S. Highway 12 on February 1, or soon after. Those opposed to the shipments, however, may seek a judicial review.

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) issued a special permit for the plan, but Linwood Laughy says he, and others who originally protested the shipments, are still considering whether to take action.

"What has occurred with ConocoPhillips is really a dress rehearsal. Some of the legal issues are still out there. The only time that there's been any decision made in a court of law about this, we won."

The ConocoPhillips equipment is headed for Montana to upgrade an oil refinery, and company spokespeople have connected the arrival of the machinery to new jobs. Laughy's "dress rehearsal" reference concerns another 200 extra-tall and wide shipments for Imperial Oil/Exxon that are also scheduled to travel much of the same route, with a final destination at a tar sands oil project in Canada.

Laughy says the process has been a learning experience for everyone involved.

"I now know things about highway surfaces and subsurfaces, and cranes, and all sorts of things that I had no idea I'd ever learn about, or even want to learn about."

ITD employees have testified that no one could remember a permit being challenged, so the steps to follow weren't clear. The agency issues thousands of special permits for the area each year, although Laughy says the size of the upcoming special oil company shipments are larger than anything ever approved to move along the two-lane road.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID