| SALMON, Idaho
SALMON, Idaho Oct 25 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
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.
Tribal leaders and environmental activists have argued that
the scenic mountain road should not be turned into an industrial
corridor by international oil companies seeking a short cut to
transport outsized equipment from the Port of Lewiston in Idaho
The GE subsidiary countered that it stood to lose millions
of dollars if its shipments were delayed, according to an appeal
of the court order. That appeal was formally withdrawn on
"(This) is a significant step forward for not only the Nez
Perce people but all persons who believe this special area
should not be transformed into something it was never intended
to be," Silas Whitman, tribal chairman, said in a statement.
ExxonMobil two years ago dropped plans to ship tar
sands equipment on colossal rigs along U.S. Highway 12 after
delays tied to a lawsuit by the environmental group Idaho Rivers
United. Ultimately, ExxonMobil downsized the loads and used
alternative routes through Idaho to Canada.
Conservationists said the legal victories would help protect
the scenic river canyon.
"Industrialization of one of America's first wild and scenic
river canyons is not acceptable, and the courts have agreed with
us," Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis said.