Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Month of Action


Stop the Frack Attack Idaho

During the Stop the Frack Attack Week of Action on June 3 to 9, activists of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), and United Vision for Idaho coordinated protests at six Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) offices throughout Idaho [1, 2].  Staging Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! demonstrations and a strategy meeting, citizens expressed their concerns about oil and gas drilling near water bodies, on state lands, and via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Payette and surrounding counties [3, 4].  On Tuesday, June 4, Idaho and Washington participants brought their friends, family, and neighbors and fracking/drilling protest signs to IDL offices in Coeur d’Alene and Saint Maries in northern Idaho.  Fellow concerned citizens demonstrated outside IDL offices in Deary, Kamiah, and Orofino in north-central Idaho on Wednesday, June 5, and took plenty of photos and videos at all six locations to share with IDL and the regional and national media [5].  On Thursday evening, June 6, a dozen highly motivated and energized Idaho activists and attorneys converged for a third strategizing session, to shape our ongoing resistance to oil and gas drilling and fracking over the next year.  At the culminating action outside the main IDL office and minerals division near the state capitol in downtown Boise on Friday, June 7, at least 20 southwestern Idaho fractivists briefly talked with IDL director Tom Schultz, waved signs and banners during afternoon rush-hour traffic, and chalked notes on the adjacent sidewalks [6-9].

With a May 28 press release and event announcements, WIRT and its allies initially instigated these successful protests at IDL offices to rally public comments and opposition to the proposed Smoke Ranch natural gas well on Birding Island [10].  On April 30, Alta Mesa Services (AMS) submitted an application for an IDL permit to drill a gas well among the extensive floodplain and wetlands confluence of the Payette River and Big Willow Creek [11].  Between two nearby units of the Payette River Wildlife Management Area and the traditional lands of the Lenni-Lenape tribe, the AMS well would drill under Highway 52 near New Plymouth, only a few miles upriver from the City of Fruitland water supply intake and the Payette/Snake River convergence [12, 13].  On behalf of our nearly 2000 members, IRAGE and WIRT raised numerous objections to IDL permitting of the poorly-placed Smoke Ranch well that could set a precedent for risky, mercenary, industrial use of state lands and waters along and under the Payette River, leased by AMS and Snake River Oil and Gas [14-18].  The Smoke Ranch well pad on private property, constructed before the public comment period closed, recently flooded and required surface water pumping before drilling with toxic chemicals that has not yet commenced [19].

In response to nationwide WIRT publicity of this gas extraction scheme, the Idaho Department of Lands provoked the escalating urgency and significance of citizen protests of private exploitation of public resources with its May 30 Fact Sheet for Media countering WIRT’s May 28 press release [20, 21].  It disclosed the first written proof of impending fracking in Idaho: “Approximately half of the currently completed [eleven] wells in Idaho will need a small frac job to clear the drilling mud from the porous reservoir rocks.”  Similar to, but purportedly smaller than, the risky hydraulic fracturing of shale that has poisoned places like North Dakota and Pennsylvania, dangerous, earthquake-inducing fracking in the fifth most seismically active state could permanently withdraw and pollute millions of gallons of water in the Payette River basin.  As described in WIRT’s rebuttal of IDL’s media release, these deep explosions could induce methane and drilling chemical migration in the punctured, shallower layer of sandstone and gas underlying vulnerable area aquifers and surface waters including irrigation canals [22, 23].  IDL also confirmed the state’s conflict of public interest, as the major holder of subsurface mineral rights in the target region, with its fact sheet revelation that the two profiteering companies had leased tracts from IDL and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in the Payette River WMA, within one half mile of the Smoke Ranch well.  This drill site could provide multiple, underground entry points for directional drilling and fracking of gas fields beneath the wildlife refuge, where the lease prohibits surface disruption from drilling [24].

Its most recent manifestation of industry-complicit disinformation, IDL’s press release derailed critical media dissemination of citizen-researched facts to Idaho constituents.  Proclaiming “many protections in state law” that “better prevent waste” of public natural gas resources, why did this Idaho agency allow unhealthy gas flaring at several Payette County wells during unusually cold and thick air inversions during January and February 2013 [25]?  Up to 22 miles away, “gas flares have harmful effects on the health and livelihood of the communities in their vicinity, as they release a variety of poisonous chemicals…and damage adjacent vegetation” [26].  While IDL claims that “modern drilling practices and well integrity tests” will “protect fresh waters in well drilling and plugging,” why do the state legislature and agencies allow injection well operators to apply for permission to inject toxic drilling waste fluids into leaking wells for up to two years [27]?  Although IDL asserts that state rules require that an oil and gas well “operator must disclose all materials used for well treatments and fracking, and…where it will dispose of fracking fluid,” why does it not mention that “operators can request trade secret protection” in their fracking permit applications for use of their proprietary brews revealed only to IDL and healthcare professionals in emergencies [28]?

Beyond Payette and adjoining counties, oil and gas drilling and fracking could also soon invade the Grangeville/Whitebird area and 7,356 acres of Bureau of Land Management parcels leased near Bear Lake and Grays Lake in southeastern Idaho [29, 30].  With so many industry-written, government-sanctioned laws and rules foisted upon citizens by the state, how can Idahoans establish legal protection against the probable looming damages of climate-changing drilling operations that will affect the quality of their air, water, and environment for generations to come, long after private oil and gas companies have raided and degraded public resources and health [31]?  Fractivists have worked relentlessly to halt reckless oil and gas drilling in Idaho and save state surface and ground waters, agriculture and recreation, air quality and climate, and subsequent health from clueless regional politicians.  A growing coalition of grassroots groups, concerned citizens, and conservation organizations across the state, alarmed by proposed drilling and hydraulic fracturing close to water and on state lands, encourages your solidarity and involvement now, before these ventures can proceed.

As the administrative arm of the Idaho Land Board and Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, authorized with the conflicting roles of both leasing state lands and waters and permitting drilling and/or fracking on or under them, the Idaho Department of Lands needs to hear from you, its bosses, soon!  Please support activists who participated in Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! protests at IDL offices around the state, by reiterating three widely-shared, primary concerns with oil and gas industry incursions into Idaho, as summarized below.  During the week of June 17 to 21, in recognition of the Stop the Frack Attack June Month of Action, call the IDL Boise office at 208-334-0200 and/or email director Tom Schultz at comments@idl.idaho.gov and demand decisive IDL action to resolve these situations [32].  Then share IDL’s response to your input with WIRT organizers, allies, and friends through this facebook event page or by email (wild.idaho.rising.tide@gmail.com) or phone (208-301-8039).

1) Because commonly overlooked “ground water provides over 95 percent of the drinking water in Idaho,” challenge the Idaho Department of Lands to require baseline testing and ongoing monitoring of surrounding surface waters and groundwater wells near oil and gas wells before any further drilling or first fracking occurs [33].  The United States Geological Survey is willing to fund half of the costs of this endeavor if the state or a county asks for its assistance.  In the aftermath of gas industry contamination of drinking water in Pavillion and other locations, “the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Tuesday rolled out a preliminary draft of a rule that requires…at least three sets of baseline water tests before and during the drilling and production of oil and natural gas wells in Wyoming” [34].  At the June 7 Boise protest, IDL director Tom Schultz said that he would investigate the possibility of baseline water testing in Idaho.  WIRT allies have not received a reply to ongoing pleas for this necessary legal protection of citizens from likely pollution of private water wells and the Payette River.  If the state or county refuses to establish this industry accountability measure, IRAGE and WIRT are currently planning a Payette County canvass to educate residents about drilling/fracking consequences and pertinent state and county laws and to seek funding for water tests.

2) Insist that the Idaho Department of Lands should not issue permits or lease state lands and waters for oil and gas drilling or fracking around and under the Payette River and elsewhere throughout Idaho.  Belonging to all present and future state citizens, whom the state has granted few options for influence over their disposition, these places host upland and riparian forests and fields, fragile riverine ecosystems, and increasingly rare habitats for wildlife [35].  They should be protected from high-impact oil and gas drilling pursuits that require several acres of vegetation clearing, drilling pads, water-sediment basins, access roads, gas lines, and other infrastructure, not to mention millions of gallons of water to drill each well [36].  These intensely industrial activities in a rural region are not compatible with traditional uses of state lands and waters by hunters, fishers, birders, boaters, hikers, campers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers.  Oil and gas development on or near state lands jeopardizes the recreation, tourism, and scientific values and heritage that foster significant, long-term benefits to the state economy.

3) Assert that the Idaho Department of Lands re-open and extend the comment period for the Smoke Ranch natural gas well 1-21, while it rejects the incomplete Alta Mesa Services application and reconsiders the pending IDL permit to drill on Birding Island in Payette County.  Directionally drilling under Highway 52 near the floodplain/wetlands confluence of Big Willow Creek and the Payette River, the proposed well threatens the downstream City of Fruitland drinking water supply, the former “Birdies Island” home site and lands of the Lenni-Lenape people of the Delaware tribe, and the resident and migratory wildlife inhabitants of the unique, 1200-acre Payette River Wildlife Management Area, only one-half mile away.  At this closest gas well to surface water in Idaho, accidental or intentional releases of drilling waste could poison a shallow aquifer, waters bodies, and irrigation canals supporting surrounding farms, ranches, and livestock and could devastate downstream Snake River and Hells Canyon recreational opportunities.

Idaho fractivists eagerly anticipate another tentative Boise action on Friday or Saturday, June 28 or 29, to conclude the Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Month of Action.  If you appreciate this ground-breaking, ongoing work that educates and activates Idahoans and confronts and curtails climate-wrecking abuses of public resources, please consider contributing online toward the operational costs, supplies, and legal fees of this expanding, statewide campaign through WePay.

[1] Stop the Frack Attack Week of Action! (Stop the Frack Attack)

[2] Idaho Department of Lands Area Offices (Idaho Department of Lands)

[3] Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! (May 23, 2013, Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[4] Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Updates (June 3, 2013, Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[5] Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! 6-4-7-13 (June 8, 2013, Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[6] Department of Lands Director Lies about Not Fracking in Idaho (June 8, 2013, JohnSmith9728)

[7] Idaho Anti-Fracking Protest Attracts Police Involvement, No Arrests Had Occurred (June 8, 2013, This is Idaho Calling)

[8] ‘Frack-tivists’ Protest Outside Boise IDL Office (June 9, 2013, Boise Weekly)

[9] WIRT Confronts Idaho Department of Lands Director over Payette County Fracking (June 10, 2013, KRFP Radio Free Moscow)

[10] Application for Permit to Drill, Deepen, or Plug Back (April 30, 2013, Idaho Department of Lands)

[11] Fruitland, Idaho (May 23, 2013, Google Map)

[12] Payette River Wildlife Management Area (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

[13] The Delawares of Idaho (The Delawares of Idaho)

[14] IRAGE Comments on Alta Mesa Services Application for Permit to Drill at Smoke Ranch, LLLP (May 30, 2013, Idaho Department of Lands)

[15] WIRT Comments to the Idaho Department of Lands on Alta Mesa Services Permit Application for Drilling Well 1-21 (May 30, 2013, Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[16] Snake River Oil and Gas Wins Oil and Gas Lease Bids from State (August 6, 2012, Idaho Statesman)

[17] Idaho Oil, Gas Leases Generate Just Over $4,450 (August 7, 2012, Idaho Press-Tribune)

[18] Gem County Acres Leased for Oil and Gas Exploration (August 15, 2012, Messenger Index)

[19] Smoke Ranch Well Site 6-8-13 (June 8, 2013, Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[20] Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho (May 29, 2013, EcoWatch)

[21] Fact Sheet for Media: Oil and Gas Drill Permit Application (May 30, 2013, Idaho Department of Lands)

[22] WIRT Response to Idaho Department of Lands Media Counter-Release (June 2, 2013, Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[23] Fracking With Idaho: Activists Push Back Against State, Gas Explorers (June 5, 2013, Boise Weekly)

[24] Payette County Fracking: Fracking Coming to Idaho, Plan to Drill for Oil at Idaho Fish and Game’s Payette River Wildlife Management Area (June 4, 2013, KRFP Radio Free Moscow)

[25] Natural Gas Drilling (January 8, 2013, Argus Observer)

[26] Effect of Gas Flaring on Lung Function among Residents in Gas Flaring Community in Delta State, Nigeria (May 15, 2012, Research Journal of Environmental and Earth Sciences)

[27] Idaho Proposed Rules for Class II Injection Wells: Notes and Comments (October 17, 2012, Amanda Buchanan)

[28] Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Disclosure Requirements (October 26, 2012, Vinson and Elkins, LLP)

[29] [Fracking] Brothers Buy Chunk of Idaho County (January 12, 2013, Lewiston Tribune)

[30] Don’t Frack Birding Island in Idaho’s Payette River (May 30, 2013, Earthworks Earthblog)

[31] Fracking Campaign (Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[32] Stop the Frack Attack June Month of Action! (Stop the Frack Attack)

[33] Payette County Ground Water Quality Improvement and Drinking Water Source Protection Plan (May 2012, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality)

[34] Wyoming Officials Unveil Pre-Drilling Water Testing Rules (June 11, 2013, Casper Star-Tribune)

[35] Rules Governing Oil and Gas Leasing on Idaho State Lands (Idaho Department of Lands)

[36] Vitali Bill Would Prevent Further State Forest Leasing (March 8, 2013, Pennsylvania House of Representatives)

One thought on “Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Month of Action

  1. Pingback: Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! Weekend | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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