Although the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) issued permits for the Conoco/Phillips shipments, bound for Billings, last Wednesday, they also put a stay on them until further details are worked out. The original 3 people on the lawsuit filed a petition to intervene with the ITD which if allowed would make this a contested case. This could allow for public hearings and a 30 day comment period. Attorney for the plaintiffs Laird Lucas (of Advocates for the West) stated that he would be surprised if a decision was made before Nov.19th.

Meanwhile the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is still waiting for Conoco/Phillips and Exxon/Mobile to submit plans for what they plan to do in case of an accident such as a Mega-load dropping into the river. Jim Lynch, director of the MDT said, “Moving a huge crane probably would not be a solution because of the length of time it would take. If it meant dismantling the equipment or making the equipment not useable, that might have to be one of their options.” Exxon/Mobile said it would use a crane if the load slipped into one of the 2 rivers. The closest crane is 10 hours away in Spokane.

The MDT is stricter than ITD in several ways. It would require the loads to pull over for traffic every 10 minutes (Idaho law says 10 minutes but the ITD is allowing 15 minutes). Also all overlegal loads that traverse Montana must go through an environmental review. The MDT could hold 3 public hearings and a 30 day comment period because of the construction of new pullouts.

Stay tuned and don’t forget to register for the Tar Sands Summit in Missoula  November 19-22. Register here online, it’s free: