Idaho BLM Oil & Gas Lease Protest


Proposed BLM Oil & Gas Protective Leasing Area

On Thursday, May 28, 2015, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and allied activists plan to protest the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oral auction and sale of leases of public oil and gas and minerals in the Little Willow Creek watershed six miles east of Payette, Idaho [1].  Managing 700 million acres of sub-surface minerals and more acreage (245 million) than any other federal agency, mostly in the western U.S. and Alaska, the BLM operates under the U.S. Department of the Interior.  Its Idaho State Office, at 1387 South Vinnell Way in Boise, will open registration to the public and prospective buyers at 7:45 am on Thursday and will begin the auction at 9 am in the Sagebrush Conference Room, offering five parcels totaling 6,475 acres for minimum lease bids of $2 per acre, following the national standard.  According to a map of the BLM proposed Little Willow Creek oil and gas leasing area, only one of the smaller parcels is available for oil and gas development, while the majority of the tracts could provide opportunities for private extraction of all federal minerals present [2].

Although the BLM asserts that this lease sale would “prevent federally owned oil and gas from being drained without compensation to the United States in the form of royalties,” “by law the Bureau of Land Management cannot auction off public lands to the oil and gas industry unless drainage is actually occurring” [2, 3].  For years, the primary architect of recent oil and gas wells, a processing plant expanded before completion, and gathering lines connecting all of this Payette County infrastructure, Alta Mesa Idaho (AMI) has pressured the BLM to open its public resources to its pursuits.  AMI’s environmentally, socially, and financially irresponsible onslaught of development has begrudged mandated, protracted, public review of BLM leasing proposals within the context of broader federal regulations, significantly more stringent that state oversight.  The Boise-based BLM Four Rivers Field Office confirmed in April 2015 that “no surface occupancy and no subsurface occupancy will be permitted until the Four Rivers Resource Management Plan is completed, which is scheduled for 2016” [1]. Continue reading

WIRT Comments on Alta Mesa Revised Smoke Ranch 1-20 Drilling Permit


Smoke Ranch 1-20 Well Map 2

WIRT Comments on Alta Mesa Revised Smoke Ranch 1-20 Drilling Permit 12-7-14

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) again dismissed Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) comments on a pending Alta Mesa drilling permit and once more did not post these WIRT comments to the IDL website. Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, we worked as diligently as possible to comment and further delay construction of the Smoke Ranch 1-20 oil and gas well a few hundred feet from the Payette River. According to the IDL website, Alta Mesa is currently DRILLING this 4000-foot-deep floodplain intrusion, imposing grave risks on Idahoans and their potentially polluted drinking water supplies, nearby wildlife refuges, agricultural production and reliant economies, and recreational uses of the Payette River and downstream Snake River and Hells Canyon. THANKS to Joe Morton, the Idaho Conservation League, and everyone who commented before both deadlines. As one of only a few participants in the extended comment period, we can attest that this well will offer few benefits to Idahoans, especially when the power of heavy, frequent floods scour the well pad and tree, located closer to the Payette River and wildlife refuge islands to the southeast than marked in this map. See our linked comments and the December 7 WIRT Newsletter.

Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14


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Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14 (October 15, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, beginning at 8:30 am MDT, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allies converged and protested for a second time another auction of oil and gas leases of state lands and sub-surface mineral rights conducted by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) for the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners [1]. Held in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Trophy Conference Room in Boise, Idaho, the public meeting offered 11 tracts totaling 5,250 acres in Cassia, Gem, and Owyhee Counties, including 600 acres in Cassia County and 160 acres in Gem County of state lands and 4,479 acres in Owyhee County of split estates with private landowners and state mineral holders.

Although citizens at the auction observed four bidders, only the drilling companies Alta Mesa Idaho of Houston, Texas, and Trendwell West of Rockford, Michigan, paid an average of $46 per acre on purportedly competitive, oral bids for subsequent ten-year leases [2, 3]. Increasing the current tally to nearly 98,000 leased state acres (besides thousands of leased private acres in six southwestern counties), IDL raised $263,000 from the auction of state public trust and endowment trust lands and minerals for oil and gas exploitation, “benefitting” the general fund, state wildlife and transportation departments, and specific educational and beneficiary institutions.  The state will receive a 12.5 percent royalty on any resulting oil and gas extracted from producing wells impacting lands, resources, and waterways at bargain prices.

At the successful, three-woman Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protest in Boise, which delayed the auction for a half-hour, the Idaho Department of Lands leased 160 acres of state lands in Gem County for only one dollar per acre. The first ever Cassia County acres went for only $10 per acre, but the other nine parcels in Owyhee County elicited $40 to $55 per acre, with one at $105 [4].  These discrepancies infer (at least to WIRT) that oil and gas industry representatives are leery to invest in Gem County drilling, due to the County Commissioners’ recent decision to establish a committee guiding and (hopefully soon) implementing independent, legally defensible, baseline, water quality sampling and testing of water bodies and wells prior to potentially harmful oil and gas activities.  Congratulations, Gem County activists! Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: Alma Hasse 10-20-14


Alma Hasse in Jail

PLEASE CALL IN: 208-892-9200!  The Monday, October 20, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes leading Idaho citizen fractivist and co-founder of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction, Alma Hasse.  Alma will share her experiences of her wrongful arrest at an October 9 Payette County planning and zoning meeting approving a natural gas processing plant expansion and her week-long incarceration and hunger strike confined to a holding cell while refusing to participate in the booking process.  She will also discuss the government, industry, and resistance background and implications of oil and gas development for civil liberties and property rights in Idaho.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her/his KRFP DJ.

Climate Justice Forum: Jim, Alma Hasse’s Husband, & Tina Fisher 10-13-14


The Monday, October 13, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes Jim, husband of leading Idaho fractivist Alma Hasse who is hunger striking in the Payette County Detention Center since her wrongful October 9 arrest at a county meeting approving a natural gas processing plant expansion.  Tina Fisher, cofounder with Alma of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction and present at Alma’s arrest, will discuss the local background and implications of oil and gas development for civil liberties and property rights in Idaho.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her/his KRFP DJ.

Global Frackdown Idaho 10-11-14


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In conjunction with the Global Frackdown worldwide day of action on Saturday, October 11, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and other groups and individuals arranged and supported Global Frackdown Idaho for a third year in Boise and for the first time in Moscow.  To publicly oppose fracking, concerned citizens and climate justice activists from across Idaho converged and staged demonstrations, calling for a ban on looming first fracking in Idaho and around the Earth.  In response to state and local policy makers and administrators and in solidarity with harmed communities and wrongfully jailed and hunger-striking Idaho fractivist Alma Hasse, protesters gathered with family, friends, neighbors, signs, and banners at the Boise and Moscow farmers markets.  Event coordinators provided verbal descriptions and printed information about the current state of oil and gas development and resistance in Idaho, as they circulated and signed a petition to state officials and considered a ballot measure, to ban fracking, waste injection wells, and all toxic oil and gas practices statewide.  At both events, participants expressed their outrage over government complicity with industrial harms to shared air, water, climate, and community, as they demanded that Idaho officials secure a future powered by clean, renewable energy, not by dirty, polluting fossil fuels that poison people and the planet. Continue reading

Idaho Fractivist Arrested Requesting Public Information


At the Payette County Courthouse in Payette, Idaho, police arrested Alma Hasse of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction after the 7 pm Thursday, October 9, Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing about the proposed expansion of the first of two natural gas processing plants and bomb train loading facilities still under construction.

Ms. Hasse was within her rights as a Payette County and Idaho citizen to insist on obtaining public official contact information before departing after the meeting. Denied such access and allegedly refusing to leave, she may be charged with trespassing and possibly disorderly conduct or resisting arrest, according to the Payette County Detention Facility where she is being held.

Multiple calls to the jail (208-642-6006, extension 2) with questions from family and fellow activists revealed that staff will not allow incoming communication and that they claim that Alma is not cooperating with booking procedures. They also state that she will be spending the night and allowed one phone call and, if the judge is willing to see her, she will be arraigned and released at a 1:30 pm hearing on Friday, October 10.  If not, she could remain jailed until Tuesday, over an upcoming “holiday.”

Because Alma has served as the preeminent, outspoken opponent of nascent Idaho oil and gas development over the last four years in the Payette County ground-zero countryside surrounding her home and business, her friends and allies fear that she is being detained by excessive force in a rural prison. We are unsure of her bail amount, but her eagerly anticipated court appearance on Friday may not require it.

Please send Alma your best thoughts and energies throughout Friday morning and beyond, and call the detention center to ask about her situation and to convey that the world is watching. If you can, attend her hearing in solidarity and ensure that she knows to plead “not guilty” and ask for a public defender.  Share this report via email, facebook, Twitter, and phone, and consider donating to Alma’s legal expenses (she has also appealed the second gas processing plant) at P.O. Box 922, Fruitland, ID 83619-0900.  Thanks for supporting our climate heroes!

Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests


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On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, beginning at 9:30 am MDT, the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners will offer oil and gas leases of state lands and sub-surface mineral rights for sale to the highest bidder, at a public auction in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Trophy Conference Room 101, at 600 South Walnut Street in Boise, Idaho [1]. The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) periodically conducts these auctions and administers subsequent leases, with oversight and approval of the Land Board.  The 12.5-percent royalty derived from extracted oil and gas raises funds from lands held for the public trust and state wildlife and transportation departments and for specified beneficiary institutions through the state endowment trust.  Of the 11 tracts in Cassia, Gem, and Owyhee Counties, 600 acres in Cassia County and 160 acres in Gem County constitute state lands, while the nine parcels totaling 4,479 acres located in Owyhee County involve split estates of private landowners and state mineral holders [2].

Minimum, competitive bids by drilling companies at the oral auction open at only $0.25 per acre for the 5,279 acres available for leasing [3]. Successful bidders must pay their bid and the first year’s annual rent of $1.00 per acre for leases lasting up to ten years.  If these leases are not drilled or productive, IDL assesses additional drilling penalties of $1.00 per acre per year starting in the sixth year.  The state requires a $1,000 bond for exploration on each lease, which increases to $6,000 prior to drilling, in addition to a drilling permit bond issued by the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  Before entry on state lands for seismic exploration, companies must acquire IDL permits costing $100 per mile across contiguous tracts or a minimum of $100 per section.

At the last of several state lands and minerals auctions in Boise, on April 17, 2014, activists raised concerns about drilling under rivers and fossil fuel effects on climate change, demonstrating outside IDL headquarters and quietly occupying the auction room filled with gas company executives and attorneys who bid more than $1,148,435 to the state of Idaho [4]. The Idaho Department of Lands leased 17,700-plus acres for oil and gas drilling, including 1,415 acres of state public trust lands and minerals under or adjacent to Boise, Payette, and Snake river beds.  AM (Alta Mesa) Idaho of Houston, Texas, and Trendwell West of Rockford, Michigan, paid an average of $76 per acre for the 150  tracts in Ada, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington counties.  The April 17 auction doubled the previously largest amount of Idaho public lands and minerals leased in one period, bringing the total to nearly 98,000 state acres, leased for as low as $2.35 per acre on average, besides the thousands more private acres leased in six southwestern counties [5].  Eighteen drilled but capped wells, awaiting pipelines and production and transportation infrastructure currently proposed or under construction, surround the first producing well in Idaho in February 2014, on the Teunissen Dairy near New Plymouth.  The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality found toluene from drilling mud in a water well several hundred feet away in fall 2012 [6]. Continue reading

Global Frackdown Idaho


Global Frackdown Idaho Flyer

Over the last four years, a majority of Idaho senators, representatives, and agency staff members has succumbed to the mercenary ambitions of the oil and natural gas industry and the state of Idaho. They have passed and misapplied state laws, rules, and regulations, allowing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)  that pollutes surface and ground water, sanctioning associated waste injection wells that leak or re-use water wells, permitting seismic testing and gas flaring that degrade geologic stability and air sheds, granting corporate hegemony over local jurisdictions that undermines democratic oversight of oil and gas facilities, approving gas wells and processing plants that spew volatile toxins, traffic, and noise, and consenting to drilling on state lands and near or under rivers, wetlands, and wildlife refuges that sustain water resources, agriculture, and native species [1, 2].  Subsequently, they have effectively compromised our air and water quality, jeopardized our health, property, and livelihoods, dismissed local protective ordinances, threatened agricultural communities, endangered tourism revenue, and risked the state’s lands, waters, and economy.

Despite ongoing outcry from thousands of citizens and diligent input from scientists, attorneys, elected officials, and conservation organizations, our delegates have negligently accommodated oil and gas exploration, production, and transportation in Idaho, especially where the state owns the subsurface mineral rights, at the likely expense of their constituents’ health, safety, finances, and self-governance. In the wake of increasingly erratic weather, horrific Colorado gasland floods, continent-wide oil and gas spills and explosions, and indigenous and settler blockades of fossil fuel equipment and product supply roads and rails, honest, hard-working Idahoans dread the impacts of similar probable scenarios on their families and communities, homes and businesses, and resources and recreation in the Payette River floodplains, where drilling resumed during summer 2013, potentially affecting wild, downstream Snake River canyons [3-6].

In response to state and local policy makers and administrators, in solidarity with harmed communities, and in conjunction with the Global Frackdown worldwide day of action on Saturday, October 11, concerned citizens and climate justice activists from across Idaho are converging to stage more public demonstrations, calling for a ban on looming first fracking in Idaho and around the Earth [7, 8]. As we circulate a petition to state officials and consider a ballot measure, to ban all toxic oil and gas practices statewide, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), Idaho Residents against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC), and other groups and individuals are coordinating a Global Frackdown Idaho march and rally in Boise and gathering in Moscow, to publicly oppose fracking. Continue reading