Urgent action is needed on House Bill 464!
If House Bill 464 passes the Idaho Senate as it has already passed the House, it would shift all meaningful control over oil and gas production from the county/city level up to the state level.
Under the Local Land Use Planning Act (LLUPA) and current state statutes, anytime someone wants to develop a property in a manner and location other than how that area is currently zoned, they must follow a special permitting process. For example, if Snake River Oil and Gas wanted to drill a well on the Payette Elementary School grounds, they would have to apply for and be granted a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or Special Use Permit (SUP), in this case, through the City of Payette. They would file an application with the city and be required to go through a public hearing process in order to be granted the permit. That process mandates a public notice, written notification to surrounding property owners, and a public meeting where residents can testify for or against the siting of the facility. It also affords affected property owners the ability to appeal a permit if they feel they have been aggrieved in any way or if the process was not handled correctly (no public notice, no notification to surrounding landowners, etc.).
If House Bill 464 passes and the governor signs it immediately into law (not on July 1, when most bills go into effect, due to this bill’s “emergency clause”), the local government process is replaced by an administrative process at the state level. The state receives the application and relays it electronically to the cities/counties, which must sign off on it within 21 days. Importantly, they CANNOT “prohibit” the extraction of oil and gas, nor can they “prohibit” the infrastructure requirements for extraction, such as dehydration/compression stations, open-air toxic waste storage pits, gathering lines, pipelines, and roads. Some flowery/ambiguous language in the bill declares that administrators must adhere to pertinent county and city ordinances, but if they cannot “prohibit” the siting of, for instance, a gas well on the Payette Elementary School grounds, they have been stripped of meaningful local control. Basically, the county or city ordinances could dictate which color of paint the gas industry must use on their tank farms, and that’s about it!
The real elephant in the room with House Bill 464 is its transferral of a significant amount of control from local decision makers to state authority. What happens when the next industry, say the nuclear waste disposal industry, comes in and wants to make Idaho the next Yucca Mountain and bring in all of the other 49 states nuclear waste here to be stored? They’re going to want this same sweetheart deal and, because a precedent would have already been set, they’ll most likely get it. Maybe it’s a global multi-national waste management company that wants to build the next generation (and largest in the world) waste incinerator just a half mile from the new Fruitland schools to burn 75 percent of the medical waste from the Pacific Northwest. Beyond these hypothetical situations, Idahoans should be thinking about the long-term consequences of surrendering any of our local control and allowing state pre-emption.
Another troubling aspect of this bill is that it appears to lay a foundation for the use of Class II injection wells in Idaho, where none currently exist or are permitted. If approved, House bill 464 would allow natural gas companies to inject their toxic drilling fluids, which contain numerous chemicals, known carcinogens, and many other substances like radionuclides and uranium, back into wells for disposal. It is well-known and documented that injection wells cause earthquakes; Idaho is the fifth most seismically active state in the country!
Please take action against House Bill 464:
Contact the Senate Resources and Environment Committee before its hearing on House Bil 464 this Wednesday, February 29, 2012! Let the committee members know that you believe in local control and ask them to vote NO on HB 464! Please email and call these senators and leave a message if you contact them after business hours, especially the committee chair, Monte Pearce, District 9 Senator for Payette and Washington Counties.
Chair Senator Monty Pearce (R): email@example.com 208-332-1325
Vice Chair Senator Steve Bair (R): firstname.lastname@example.org 208-332-1346
Senator Bert Brackett (R):
Senator Dean Cameron (R): email@example.com 208-332-4735
Senator Lee Heider (R): firstname.lastname@example.org 208-332-1347
Senator Jeff Siddoway (R): email@example.com 208-332-1342
Senator Michelle Stennett (D): firstname.lastname@example.org 208-332-1353
Senator John Tippets (R): email@example.com 208-332-1429
Senator Elliot Werk (D): firstname.lastname@example.org 208-332-1352
(Secretary) Linda Kambeitz: email@example.com 208-332-1323
An Idaho Conservation League link to a writer-created form that emails all of the members of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee at once also provides some good information about the bill.
Attend or listen to the Senate resources committee hearing on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, at 12:30 pm PST/1:30 pm MST, in Room WW37 at the Statehouse in Boise or through the Idaho Legislature’s audio stream. Address the senators in person if you can at this public hearing being held in the people’s house!
In addition to contacting the Senate resources committee, please talk with ALL both county and city elected officials about House Bill 464! The Idaho Association of Cities (IAC) has expressed some opposition to HB 464, but please assure that our city governments are aware of HB 464 and its dynamics and that they have contacted the Idaho Association of Cities to voice their concerns and request that the IAC oppose HB 464.
Here is the contact information for the Payette County Commissioners. Please do not hesitate to forward this link to family and friends in other counties and ask them to find the contact information for their counties/cities or send it to them.
Chair Rudy Endrikat: firstname.lastname@example.org 208-642-3910
Commissioner Marc Shigeta: email@example.com 208-278-3770
Commissioner Larry Church: firstname.lastname@example.org 208-452-3985
City of Payette contact information:
Mayor Ken Williams: email@example.com 208-642-6024
Municipal Coordinator/City Clerk Mary Cordova: firstname.lastname@example.org 208-642-6024
(Payette enacted a 180-day moratorium on gas drilling on September 26, 2011, and city officials may currently be working on a permanent ban on fracking.)
City of Fruitland contact information:
Mayor Ken Bishop (owner of The Biz Zone: 208-452-6245)
City Administrator Rick Watkins: email@example.com 208-452-4421
City of New Plymouth contact information:
Mayor Joe Cook (leading opposition to HB 464): 208-278-3672
Please take five or ten minutes to contact the Senate resources committee, your county commissioners, mayors, city councils, and city managers. Ask them to oppose HB 464 and thus ensure that natural gas facility siting decisions are made by the most appropriate people: local elected officials.
Please do not think that you will not be impacted unless you live in Payette or Washington counties. Snake River Oil and Gas representative David Hawk stated before the Senate resources committee that the company was looking at other areas in southern Idaho. Natural gas drilling is already rapidly progressing in our neighboring states of Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, and numerous gas leases have been signed in nearby Malheur County, Oregon.
(By Alma Hasse, Executive Director of Idaho’s only CAFO watchdog group, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment, firstname.lastname@example.org, 208-695-1556)