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Imperial Oil's test module
Imperial Oil's test module snakes its way out of North Lewiston, Idaho, along U.S. Highway 12 on April 11. On its first night, the practice megaload hit a guy wire near Orofino, leading to power outages in some 1,300 area homes.

District Judge Ray Dayton of Deer Lodge County has granted in part a request for a temporary restraining order to stop work on the Kearl Module Transportation Project in Montana.

The ruling, filed in Missoula County District Court Monday morning, prohibits any improvement or construction of turnouts, or any activity relating to the burial of utility lines, along the big rigs' route through the state.

However, it allows an Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil test validation module to proceed to Lolo Hot Springs, as well as modification of existing traffic signals.

The test module is scheduled to resume moving Monday night after 10 p.m. PDT. It has rested for the past week at the side of U.S. Highway 12 near Kamiah, Idaho, after experiencing multiple problems on its first move from the Port of Lewiston.

According to Dayton, no further movement of modules can proceed until additional construction work has been completed.

The Anaconda judge also set a preliminary injunction hearing date for May 16 at 9 a.m. in the Missoula County Courthouse.

Missoula County, the National Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Center and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club requested the injunction to halt all work on the Kearl project route through Montana to the Canadian border until a lawsuit they've brought against the Montana Department of Transportation has been settled.

The temporary restraining order was requested last Wednesday after MDT refused to halt turnout construction and other modifications to the route on its own. Dayton's decision followed a closed-circuit hearing from Anaconda on Friday with attorneys and witnesses in Missoula and Helena.

The lawsuit follows MDT's decision in February to approve Imperial/Exxon's proposal to move, over the course of nearly a year, more than 200 oversized modules from the Port of Lewiston to the Kearl Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta, where an $8 billion construction project is scheduled to be completed in late 2012. The loads are up to 210 feet long, 24 feet wide and nearly 30 feet high and require frequent controlled traffic stoppages and an escort by the Montana Highway Patrol and an ambulance.

The proposed route through Montana begins at Lolo Pass on Highway 12 and passes through Missoula on Reserve Street, up the Blackfoot Valley on Highway 200 to Rogers Pass, and along the Rocky Mountain Front to Cut Bank and the Port of Sweetgrass.

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