In a stunning decision late Wednesday, a specially appointed hearing officer recommended to the director of the Idaho Transportation Department that full public hearings should be granted to opponents of four mega-loads. The oil-processing equipment has been sitting at the Port of Lewiston since early spring while ConocoPhillips made several attempts to get permits to traverse Idaho's U.S. Highway 12.
In a 19-page document, hearing officer Merlyn Clark wrote:
"Because there has been no final order in this contested case, the department must hold formal contested case hearings before the applicants' over-legal loads are allowed to travel under the permit. To allow the loads to travel before a formal contested case hearing is conducted would contravene the right of the parties to intervene and be heard upon the issues as provided under the Rules of Administrative Procedure."
Bill Stephens, spokesman for Conoco said the oil giant was disappointed.
"We do not believe the recommendation adequately accounts for the careful planning by ConcoPhillips, Emmert International [the transport company], the ITD, and other state and local agencies," said Stephens. "The recommendation also could delay an important part of our planned maintenance activities at the Billings refinery."
You can read the full report here.