April 20, 2011 in City

Idaho sets rules for gas drilling

John Miller Associated Press

BOISE – State officials on Tuesday approved rules governing a gas drilling operation and its plan to use hydraulic fracturing to tap western Idaho energy deposits, agreeing they’ll adequately safeguard the region’s groundwater.

The state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which includes Gov. Butch Otter, unanimously approved the temporary rules to guide Bridge Energy’s operation in Payette County and any other wildcatter outfits that follow them here hoping to hit pay dirt. The Department of Lands is now set to write permanent rules that would likely replace this version after the 2012 Legislature has vetted them.

The new rules allow four wells per square mile, more than the previous standard of just a single well, and set parameters for hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – where Bridge plans to inject liquids into four of its seven wells to clear out blockages and trigger the flow of natural gas.

That process has been blamed for water pollution in Colorado, Wyoming and Pennsylvania, but Bridge Energy says its proposal is modest compared to the larger-scale “horizontal fracking” that’s been the subject of controversy.

Idaho is a latecomer to regulating the natural gas industry; there are no wells operating here.

Among the provisions adopted Tuesday, companies must contain their fracking fluids and keep these pressurized injections at least 500 vertical feet from drinking water aquifers. The ingredients of fracking fluids also must be disclosed to the agency, while any gas wells that undergo fracking must be monitored if they are within the capture zones of municipal water supplies.

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