Smoke Ranch Well Protest

Gas Well with Bluffs

As oil and gas drilling resumed in Payette County this month after a few years, Alta Mesa Services raised a derrick at the Smoke Ranch natural gas well on June 9 [1].  This directionally drilled well – the focus of the intensive Stop the Frack Attack! campaign of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE) during June – embodies the myriad infringements of environmental and human health that conventionally-drilled and hydraulically-fractured (“fracked”) oil and gas wells famously impose [2].  The Smoke Ranch well occupies a floodplain, where operators pumped standing water from the well pad before drilling between the Payette River and Big Willow Creek, within a half-mile of a riparian area/wetland wildlife refuge, and only a few miles upstream from the City of Fruitland municipal water intake and the Payette/Snake River confluence.  Its ultimate outcomes could set a precedent for looming drilling/fracking on and under nearby state lands and waters already leased by Alta Mesa and Snake River Oil and Gas.  IRAGE activists have been monitoring the site daily and, along with other information sources in the southwest Idaho region, have observed multitudes of hidden equipment, transport trailers, drill pipes, and well pads awaiting likely escalating utilization, as well as water for Smoke Ranch operations withdrawn from irrigation canals.  They have recently taken unreleased pictures and videos of several Schlumberger tank trucks covered with radioactive warning placards.

Besides this burgeoning activity at the Smoke Ranch well site during July 2013, Governor Otter appointed five new members to the legislatively restructured Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission [3].  The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) has permitted another ML Investments gas well and is purportedly considering a third incursion, while drilling companies seek permits for a pipeline connecting Payette County wells to Idaho Power Company’s Langley Gulch natural gas plant by New Plymouth [4].  Industry continues to mask its fracking intentions, asserting that “drillers will use well treatment, a long-established process of sending liquids and sand down a well under high pressure to enhance gas flows.”  In a one-sided Boise television news story, obviously missing the opposing environmental perspectives of IRAGE, WIRT, and fellow concerned Idaho citizens, political chameleon and industry spokesperson John Foster did not reveal future fracking plans, nor did IDL disclose such permit requests [5].  According to IRAGE allies, fracking in Idaho does not require public notice or comments and could start any day.  But even the diesel-slinging drilling mud of oil and gas exploration and production could jeopardize surface and ground waters and threaten air quality and global climate surrounding Payette County operations.  Any inroads into the Hamilton/Willow gas field advance the strong, impending possibilities of compromised drinking and irrigation water and the local agricultural, recreational, and economic productivity that rely on a wholesome landscape.

WE NEED YOU to participate in emerging, overdue protests and direct actions in July and August at various on-site and public locations in southwestern Idaho!  At 3 pm MDT on Friday, August 2, IRAGE and WIRT are staging a public demonstration of outrage near the Smoke Ranch well site on Highway 52.  Boise carpools to the current New Plymouth drilling area will depart at 2 pm MDT from the Discovery Center of Idaho parking lot at 131 Myrtle Street, and return by 5 pm MDT.  WIRT is also arranging late Thursday or early Friday carpools from northern Idaho with your input.  Contact or 208-301-8039 for further logistical descriptions, including a possible bus from Boise.  Participants arriving from all parts of the state can meet and follow organizers to the protest from the parking lot of the A & W Restaurant/Chevron gas station just north of Interstate 84 Exit 3, at the corner of Highway 95 and U.S. Highway 30 [6].  Please bring your friends, family, and neighbors, fracking/drilling protest signs and banners, and cameras and binoculars.  As we converge, we will also discuss the ongoing, innovative initiatives and volunteer opportunities of several organizations working to stop drilling and fracking in Idaho.  Your active involvement in this endeavor is more crucial than ever: Join us!  Everyone is welcome at this great educational and expressive event!

[1] Smoke Ranch 7-9 to 7-12, 2013 (July 13 Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction video)

[2] Search Results for: “Smoke Ranch” (July 28 Wild Idaho Rising Tide website)

[3] Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (July 28 Idaho Department of Lands website)

[4] Idaho on Verge of Natural Gas Production (July 13 Idaho Statesman)

[5] Natural Gas Drilling Begins in Payette County (July 18 KTVB TV Boise)

[6] A & W Restaurant and Chevron Station (June 26 Google Map)

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