Protesters, jobs elements of Highway 12 hearing
While the lawyers and witnesses dealt with details concerning the mega-loads, Billings resident Dan Kirkpatrick was thinking big picture about what the mega-loads will mean to Billings and to the nation.
A project manager with the Anvil Corp., the company that has prepared a refinery there to accommodate the drums, Kirkpatrick said he's come to view the opposition to the mega-loads as part of an "assault on industry in this country" and an action that will help drive jobs overseas to places with less regulation.
For Billings, "you're talking about thousands of jobs," he said, speaking of refinery workers and others whose work is ultimately supported by refinery dollars. "It's a huge impact on our economy."
Dan Gatch, a Billings resident, was among a couple dozen people in the audience in a banquet room at The Grove Hotel in Boise Monday who wore a white Conoco shirt.
"It's just wrong that a few people can stand in the way of something that will effect so many people," he said. The case is about the greater good, he said.
"It's being narrow-minded,” he said of the opposition. "It's selfish."
Writer Linwood Laughy, the Highway 12 resident leading the opposition, said he's all for jobs in Billings and argued that his stand could ultimately result in more American jobs by encouraging companies to buy products made in America.
"This stuff could be made here," he said of the coke drums fabricated in Japan that are being shipped to Lewiston. "If they made the things there there would be more jobs."
Highway 12 protesters anticipated
The state and Conoco-Phillips plan to block off public pull-out areas along Highway 12 to thwart people who might protest the mega-loads route from Lewiston along Highway 12 to Montana.
The areas will be blocked off 24 hours before the convoys including giant coke drums being shipped from Lewiston to Billings might pull in. The trucks will drive at night and park during the day to avoid traffic.
"Protesters, no matter how well intentioned, can disrupt the flow of traffic," said James Carpenter, Idaho Transportation Department district engineer in Lewiston, during a hearing on the mega-loads Wednesday in Boise. Protecting protesters and motorists too is a priority, he said
Attorney Laird Lucas, representing Highway 12 residents, said the closures could lead to accidents — a tired commuter might want to pull off the road for a snooze but be met with a barricade, he said. Did the state consider that?
"I think there are other locations available," Carpenter answered, adding that he didn't consider closures extensive. There are about 100 pullouts along Highway 12's 174 miles.