GE drops legal fight over running tar sands megaloads on Idaho highway

Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:39pm EDT
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By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho Oct 25 (Reuters) - A General Electric Co subsidiary has dropped its appeal of a federal court order barring a massive shipment of tar sands oil-field equipment from being trucked along a scenic Idaho roadway that cuts through the Indian homelands of the Nez Perce Tribe.

The company's legal capitulation was hailed by tribal officials and environmental groups as a major victory in their three-year struggle against so-called megaload transports, a dispute at the forefront of a larger battle over oil and gas development in North America.

A federal judge issued an injunction last month blocking a planned shipment along U.S. Highway 12 of an oversized water-treatment system bound for delivery by an Oregon hauling company to the tar sands production fields of Alberta, Canada.

The winding mountain road hugs the banks of two federally protected rivers through north-central Idaho and crosses national forest lands following an historic trail broken by early Nez Perce bison hunters.

It also follows the route taken at the dawn of the 19th-century by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their famed government-sponsored expedition to chart newly purchased Western territories.

The General Electric affiliate said in a statement on Friday it was abandoning its court fight over the road to focus on other shipment options "due to ongoing uncertainty regarding timely delivery" of its oil-field equipment.

The Nez Perce in August formed a human chain across the two-lane highway in a protest that slowed but did not stop an initial shipment of water purification units owned by the GE subsidiary Resources Conservation Company International.

A second scheduled shipment was blocked in September by the judge, who ordered further megaloads banned along the 100-mile (161-km) route until the U.S. Forest Service studied the environmental, economic and tribal impacts.   Continued...