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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Senate passes oil/gas bill, 24-10

The Senate has voted 24-10 in favor of HB 464, the oil/gas development bill that asserts state authority over siting, potentially conflicting with some aspects of a new county ordinance just passed in Washington County. The House-passed bill now heads to Gov. Butch Otter's desk. "We don't have a perfect bill, but I don't think we can agree on what the perfect bill is," Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier told the Senate. But he said, "I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this bill will determine whether or not we develop gas and oil resources over the next year. I think it's that critical."

Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, who opposed the bill, said, "The only thing I wanted was the opportunity for my constituents to have a public hearing. ... I still think that local people should have that opportunity." The Senate Minority issued a statement on the bill; click below to read their statement.

Idaho State Senate
Minority Office
State Capitol
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Media Advisory

For immediate release - Wednesday, March 14, 2012
BOISE- Today, the Senate passed House bill 464 on a vote of 24-10. H464 establishes Idaho law governing oil and gas exploration and development including limits to local control over the location of wells, drilling processes, water rights and the injection of waste materials into the ground. Having passed both chambers, the bill is headed to the Governor for his signature. Unfortunately, H464 does nothing to ensure the protection of our unique quality of life as the state expands into new areas of natural resource extraction.

H464 preempts local land-use planning statute dating back to 1975. Counties will have little input in the permitting process whereby well sites are selected (or restricted) and no role in planning and zoning. “Our people at home value their rights and understand that they deserve a say in actions that impact their local communities but in passing this bill, we turn our backs on them,” said Senator Michelle Stennett.

Well-founded, bi-partisan concerns over local input were raised in both the Resources and Environment Committee and on the floor of the Senate but they quickly evaporated as industry lobbyists met with senators in closed-door meetings. “Having industry write their own regulations does not honor our obligation to the people of Idaho to act as responsible stewards of public policy and protect the needs of everyday citizens,” said Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai.

Senator Elliot Werk, Stennett’s fellow Democrat on the Resources committee, said, “Like all Idahoans, our caucus supports the responsible development of oil and gas resources which can strengthen Idaho’s energy independence and contribute to our schools.” “However, like most Idahoans, we believe it is the duty of the legislature to find the balance between enabling industry and protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens. H464, written by the oil and gas industry, does not strike that balance,” said the trained geologist.

Senate Democratic legislators are excited at the prospect of the development of oil and gas resources in Idaho. We recognize the potential benefits to our schools and state services that can come from the added revenue promised by the industry. Democrats look forward to working with our colleagues in future years to better regulate the practices of the oil and gas industry to the benefit of the health, safety and welfare of our citizens.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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