By Deb Courson Smith

A plan to send more than 200 Imperial/Exxon oil company mega-loads of equipment along U.S. Highway 12 in Idaho, and eventually through Montana, is being examined from all perspectives this week at a hearing. And the presiding judge, Duff McKee, wants all those involved to take as much time as needed. Economists, business owners, Idaho State Police officers, Idaho Transportation Department staff, and oil company managers are signed up to be witnesses.

Borg Hendrickson is on the list, too, as a representative of Rural People of Highway 12. She was one of the original plaintiffs when the ConocoPhillips shipment plan was protested earlier this year, and says this time, there is a lot more evidence to consider.

“For one thing, we have reports from citizen monitors. We’ve had three or four dozen of them out there at various times, and we have video.”

The hearing happens against the backdrop of construction already taking place to make room for the loads. Power lines are being moved and trees cut down and trimmed.

Hendrickson says locals are stunned because the route is a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River Corridor, and landowners have to follow a special process to make such changes.

“It is utterly distressing to easement holders here that big oil is able to just come in and order the cutting of all these trees.”

The Imperial/Exxon loads are bound for a tar sands oil project in Alberta, Canada, a project that is said to benefit the United States.

The hearing starts each day at 9 a.m., Main Auditorium, ITD Building, 331 W. State Street, Boise.