Posts tagged: fracking
After a hearing that stretched for more than an hour and a half and saw extensive testimony both for and against, Idaho's Oil & Gas Conservation Commission has voted unanimously to approve new rules for development of crude oil and natural gas resources in Idaho, including “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing. Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who was presiding in place of Gov. Butch Otter, abstained from the vote because of pending negotiations regarding possible gas drilling on his land. The state Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, which consists of the members of the state Land Board, approved temporary rules for gas drilling, including the controversial practice, in April; today's vote marked final approval, though lawmakers still will review the rules during their legislative session that starts in January. You can see the full 22-page rule here.
Supporters of the new rules said they'd promote jobs; opponents said they threaten clean water in the state. Boise Weekly reporter George Prentice has posted a full report here, and you can read Rocky Barker's full report here in the Idaho Statesman.
Idaho's new state lands director has lots of experience in Montana managing oil and gas revenues from state trust lands, reports Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker, which should come in handy as Idaho begins to look at potential revenues from natural gas on its state endowment lands. Barker reports that Montana's revenues from oil and gas on state trust lands jumped more than 200 percent, or $20 million, between 2005 and 2006, in part due to prices and in part to the new fracking technology. You can read his full post here.
The Idaho Land Board, sitting as the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, voted unanimously today to start a negotiated rulemaking process on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The initial notice matches a temporary rule the board's already adopted. Secretary of State Ben Ysursa asked about the Bridge Energy fracking plan and the recent denial of a permit for a related compression station in Payette County, but Lands Department staffer Eric Wilson said, “That is not something the Department of Lands is involved in.”
Gov. Butch Otter said the state should at least be offering advice to Payette County about how other states have approached issues regarding fracking plans. “Obviously this is new to all of us,” he said. “We oughta have a one-stop shop,” whether that means involving the PUC, the DEQ, or other state agencies. “They ought to be at least a part of the rulemaking process or participating in it.” Here's a link to a Friday report from the Boise Weekly on the Payette County P&Z vote.
With no discussion or debate, the state Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, which consists of the governor, the attorney general, the secretary of state, the state superintendent of public instruction and the state controller, has voted unanimously to adopt as-is a proposed temporary rule on “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing in gas well drilling, without any of the changes proposed by the Idaho Conservation League. Controller Donna Jones made the motion; she'd earlier tried to make the same motion before the commission had heard any of the testimony before or against the rule.
Afterward, Gov. Butch Otter shook hands with Justin Hayes of the ICL and told him, “Justin, thank you - keep an eye on it.” Hayes responded, “We'll try - we could use a little help.”
Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League told state officials, “What we don't want is to have a problem develop because it wasn't being closely regulated, because, as we've heard time and time again, you can't clean up an aquifer once you've fouled it up.” When it comes to something like injecting fluids deep into the ground through “fracking” as part of gas well drilling, Hayes said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Idaho's temporary rules on fracking should contain those “fences,” he said.
“The goal here is not to stop people from trying to do things. The goal is to give them certainty so they know what is an option for them to do responsibly,” Hayes said.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden then quizzed Bridge Energy officials about Hayes' proposed amendments to the rule. Kim Parsons, exploration manager for Bridge Energy, said her company wouldn't know what was allowed or not under the limits on fracking compounds Hayes proposed, and couldn't define what is “carcinogenic,” “teratogenic” or “mutagenic.” She also said, in response to a question from Wasden, that her firm plans only vertical drilling, not horizontal.
State Lands Department staffer Eric Wilson said it would be a broad restriction to ban the use of carcinogenic compounds from being injected into groundwater in “fracking” fluids. “I think even Twinkies could be carcinogenic if you eat enough of them,” Wilson said. He said “some pretty harmless compounds” generally are being used, and there's a federal prohibition against the use of diesel fuel. Idaho specifically prohibits the injection of volatile organic compounds like benzene and tolulene, he said.
Kim Parsons, exploration manager for Bridge Energy, told the state's top elected officials, who are sitting this morning as the state Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, that the company has been “very clear” on excluding dangerous substances from its fracking fluids, and “we by no means intend to inject it into our precious groundwater.” She said, “I do believe that we exhibit the highest quality of groundwater protection of any industry in the county.” The company's projects could affect Canyon, Gem, Payette and Washington counties.
Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League has proposed several amendments to the temporary rule on “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, that's pending before the state Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. They include banning the injection of carcinogenic or toxic compounds into groundwater; banning horizontal well drilling, which no one has yet proposed in Idaho; and prohibiting fracture lengths exceeding 150 feet from the well bore. He also proposed additional bonding requirements to protect nearby water right holders from impacts. “These amendments are meant to be friendly amendments, not meant to hinder the development and extraction of natural gas over the course of the next year,” Hayes said. “We are seeking some simple prohibitions that are designed to protect water quality.”
The temporary rule is a placeholder while more detailed, negotiated rules are developed. State Lands Director George Bacon said, “I think that the department has an opportunity through the permitting process, and it certainly is our intent, when proposals for hydraulic fracturing and injection of materials move forward, the rules do provide that we have to approve what they use.” He said, “We will certainly be vigilant … until we get a more formal, larger set of rules.”