Beating the ExxonMobil Mega-Loads 

The couple that forced big oil to take a detour

Borg Hendrickson and husband Linwood Laughy: "Despite the odds, victory is possible."

George Prentice

Borg Hendrickson and husband Linwood Laughy: "Despite the odds, victory is possible."

Sometimes winners beat their chests. Other times, they simply grin. On Nov. 11, BW received a brief, but telling email:

"Hello George. Sometimes the people win, even the little people. Borg and I smile. Linwood Laughy."

Laughy and his wife Borg Hendrickson, in Central Idaho, have been locked in battles with big government and even bigger oil companies over the possibility of mega-loads rolling by their home that overlooks U.S. Highway 12 and the Clearwater River.

"Borg and I have become accustomed to being on the front line," said Laughy. "We always believed that if one is going to do something, one ought to do it well--win or lose."

Even their opponents might concede that what the couple did, they did well. Through a gauntlet of courtroom battles and public hearings, their message was as clear as the Clearwater: T-Rex-sized rigs had no business rolling across U.S. 12 through the narrow canyons that hugged the river.

BW first meet Hendrickson and Laughy at a series of town hall meetings, where ExxonMobil told central Idahoans about its plans to haul giant oil rigs from the Port of Lewiston across U.S. 12 before heading north to the Alberta, Canada, tar sands oil fields (BW, News,"Taking the Scenic Route," July 7, 2010). Initial concern built into a full-frontal debate, which sucked several interest groups into its orbit: environmentalists, oil companies, lobbyists, government officials and a series of Idaho judges. Trials and hearings strung together for more than a year.

Eventually, another oil company, ConocoPhillips, was granted permission to roll four mega-loads across the same route, in order to get giant coke drums to its Billings, Mont., refinery (BW, News,"Big Oil Mega-Loads Hit the Road," Feb. 9, 2011).

While Hendrickson and Laughy were crestfallen as they watched the Conoco loads roll by their home, they were never undeterred in their fight against Exxon. Eventually, time was their greatest ally.

Exxon impatiently began breaking down its mega-loads into smaller rigs, rolling them across an alternate route on Interstate 95 through Moscow and Coeur d'Alene before heading west and north. On Nov. 7, the oil giant said that it would break down the remaining mega-loads and move them across I-95, nowhere near U.S. 12.

"The war isn't over but the large-scale invasion has failed," Laughy told BW. "A lot of ordinary people have come to understand that, despite the odds, victory is possible. We have all learned a lot and are part of an ever-growing network of like-minded people."

A few months ago, Laughy told BW that he and his wife were seriously considering selling their home, but they now have decided to stay.

"Better to burn out than rust out," he said. "We don't plan on going anywhere any time soon."

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