01.11 Highway 12 Residents Challenge Hearing Officer’s Recommendations
- Posted by Trish Weber
A group of 13 residents and business owners along Highway 12 today challenged the recommendations by a hearing officer and asked Idaho Transportation Department director Brian Ness to deny permits for ConocoPhillips’ proposed shipments of massive coke drums up Highway 12 from Lewiston to Lolo Pass.
The group, led by long-time Highway 12 residents Linwood Laughy and Karen “Borg” Hendrickson, have opposed the mega-shipments in court and administrative proceedings since last August, when ITD initially approved the shipments. The group is concerned that the massive loads will harm central Idaho’s tourism and outdoor recreation economy and local communities.
Following a December 8-9 hearing in Boise, ITD hearing officer Merlyn Clark issued proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law on December 28, 2010, recommending to the ITD Director that the ConocoPhillips’ shipments be approved.
The filing today took exception to those recommendations, and asked the ITD Director to overrule them. The filing begins by stating:
“Regrettably, the Hearing Officer’s Recommended Decision does not present a full and fair evaluation of the facts and law. Just the opposite – the Hearing Officer has simply regurgitated the case presented by ITD staff and Conoco/Emmert, without bothering to address key points and evidence presented by Intervenors.”
“ITD has never authorized loads of this size to travel on Highway 12 before,” noted Laird Lucas, Executive Director of Advocates for the West. “ITD has a duty to consider all of the relevant facts and evidence before making a final determination . We’re taking exception to the Hearing Officer’s recommendation because he didn’t do that.”
The exceptions brief filed by residents and business owners spends 22 pages itemizing evidence that the hearing officer ignored in his 57-page recommended decision – which they described as “one-sided, unfair, and clearly erroneous.” “Remarkably, not once in all these pages does the Recommended Decision identify – much less discuss in detail – any of the evidence or testimony submitted by Intervenors,” the filing adds.
The filing concludes by asking the ITD Director to reject the hearing officer’s recommendations, and issue a final decision denying the overlegal permits sought by Conoco and its contractor, Emmert International.
The next step is for attorneys representing ITD and Conoco to file responses. It is unknown when Director Ness will issue a final decision on the requested permits.