Judge: No 'megaloads' of tar sands equipment

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LOS ANGELES — A federal judge has ruled that the massive hauls of equipment bound for Canadian oil tar sands cannot use a narrow highway that runs through forested areas and Nez Perce tribal lands in Idaho.

Judge Lynn Winmill granted an injunction Thursday that halts the so-called megaloads — the most recent reportedly weighing 644,000 pounds and stretching more than 200 feet — until U.S. Forest Service officials finish a review of U.S. Highway 12 and consult with the Nez Perce, whose reservation is part of that area.

The tribe and activists who filed the lawsuit last month hailed the ruling.

"This is a win for all who cherish the aesthetic, spiritual and recreational values of the Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers," Kevin Lewis, conservation director for Idaho Rivers United, said in a statement. "The judge has provided the timeout needed to complete the environmental reviews, tribal consultation and rule-making necessary to protect this beautiful river corridor."

The tribe and environmental groups called their lawsuit their most recent effort to prevent the area, rich with wildlife, from becoming an industrial corridor. In addition to the environmental concerns, tribal leaders have worries about public safety, with the slow-moving loads clogging the roadway.

The loads were transported by Oregon-based Omega Morgan, which was contracted by a General Electric subsidiary, RCCI, to carry water evaporators to tar sands in Alberta. Another load was set to travel through the area later this month.