Payette County P&Z Approves Conditional Use Permits for Alta Mesa

Facilities would allow company to collect and treat natural gas.

Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members have approved two conditional use permits for two facilities that would allow a natural gas company to collect and treat natural gas.

So far this year, two wells have been drilled in Payette County, and the state has approved a third.  With the approval of these two conditional use permits, the company, Alta Mesa, will be able to sell the natural gas commercially, and Idaho would officially become a gas-producing state.

One of the permits approved by commission members on Thursday was for a hydrocarbon liquid treatment facility near 4303 Highway 30 South in New Plymouth.  This facility would take up nearly six acres of land outside New Plymouth.

The facility would have no liquids open to the atmosphere but held in a sealed, closed container, according to John Peiserich, representing Alta Mesa.

The facility would require a turnaround for 18-wheelers to come through, though Peiserich said the number of trucks would be in the single digits in a week’s time.  A small truck would service the area, and an employee would be present every day, with additional remote monitoring by a computer checking for any fluctuations in the liquids.

A dehydrator would be on the location to extract water vapor from the natural gas.  This dehydrator, which would be out in the open, would run nearly 24 hours per day, seven days per week, Peiserich said.

The size of the dehydrator that would go on the property is built for 40 wells serviced at constant capacity, or approximately 20 million cubic feet of gas per day, Peiserich said.

The facility pipeline is the limiting factor in the scenario.  The dehydrator would be large enough for the wells in Payette County, but the pipeline – which would hypothetically service Williams Pipeline, Intermountain Gas Pipeline, and Idaho Power’s Langley Gulch plant near the facility, which would all be purchasing the natural gas being produced by the county’s wells – and the size of those pipelines may limit the liquids.

One question that arose about this facility had to do with noise levels and whether it would disturb nearby neighbors.

Peiserich said the noise from the facility would be comparable to a feed lot.  However, many of the community members who testified said that, because this facility would be running 24/7, it would not give neighbors any peace.

The dehydrator would be placed on the property as far away as possible to the dairy that is the nearest neighbor to the facility, Peiserich said.  The nearest house is approximately 900 feet from the property.

Bridge Resources, the previous gas company that had drilled wells before Alta Mesa, had testified to the P&Z commission that the facility would not exceed 45 decibels.

“That number is unattainable,” Peiserich said to the P&Z commission.  “Bridge didn’t know what they were talking about.  Or they had a lack of understanding.”

The area currently reaches an average of 45 decibels without the gas company’s facilities, according to a baseline test conducted over a week’s time.

Peiserich claimed there is no way to really know how loud this facility would be, though 75 decibels seemed like a more comfortable number to compromise on, with Peiserich calling that number an “appropriate standard of that area.”

Peiserich was asked whether there were other similar situations somewhere else in the country, where he could compare the decibel rating to Payette County.  He said he did not have the number.

Many of those who testified were neighbors to the potential facility.  Most compared this facility to the power plant, which is within eyesight of the land in question.

The power plant, according to the neighbors, can be heard from their houses, and they are very unhappy about that.  They said that Interstate 84 can also be heard, but the power plant’s noise is constant, as would be the noise from the new facility.

One man testified that, if the conditional use permit were approved, the P&Z commission would be selling the heart and soul of Payette County.

“First it was the power plant and now this,” Darwin Hillman said.  “People know the county because of the location of the power plant.”

Additionally, some testified that the constant noise of the facility would bother the cattle and other livestock around the area.  The cattle could become sterile and their milk production could be impacted, Tina Fisher testified.

The planning and zoning commission voted 5 to 3 to approve the conditional use permits for the treatment facility.

The second conditional use permit was for a connection pipeline located near 3749 S.W. Third Avenue in New Plymouth.

Peiserich said this location would be used to build the connection to the pipelines from the well sites.  Additionally, it would be used to transfer gas for distribution into the system and to “odorize” the natural gas.

When natural gas comes out of the earth, it is odorless.  An odor is added to the gas so people are able to smell it and identify it in case of a leak.

Once the connection from the wells to the pipelines is complete, it would be the first pipeline in Idaho to commercially produce.  Idaho would receive royalty payments once this begins, from mineral rights that the state leased.  Private owners of mineral rights in Payette County would also begin receiving their royalty payments, once the gas is commercially sold.

The noise level of the connection pipeline, according to Peiserich, would be comparable to a “whoosh” and not very audible, though it would be going 24 hours per day, seven days per week.  This location would also be remotely monitored.

If a leak were to occur, the smell, because of the odorization process, would be apparent immediately, Peiserich said.

Commission members voted 5 to 3 to approve the first permit with the condition that the decibel rating had an average of 60 decibels and would also include suggestions that were submitted to the commission prior to the meeting.  The Independent-Enterprise filed a public records request for those documents, but the county had not supplied the documents by press time.

Commission members Mary Cordova, Frazer Peterson, and Richard Bronson voted against the permit.  Commission members Pete Morgan, Farrell Rawlings, Doug Deardorff, Lyla Scheihing, and Jennifer Riebe voted to approve the permit, with members Bert Sideroff, Brent Vaughn, and Lori VanVliet absent.  Chairman of the commission Chad Henggeler does not vote.

The second permit was also approved 5 to 3, with Cordova, Peterson, and Bronson voting against the permit.  The second permit carried the conditions that the average decibel rating not exceed 55 decibels, some kind of fence or vegetation be planted to block the sight of the closest neighbors to the location, and additional suggestions submitted to the commission that were not returned by press time.

The commission, at one point during the meeting, acknowledged that there would likely be an appeal made by Alta Mesa, due to the decibel requirements alone.  If that happens, the Payette County Commissioners would hear the conditional use permit requests, and another public hearing would be set for a future date.

(By Cherise Kaechele, reporter, Independent-Enterprise/Argus Observer)

(This article appeared as Payette County P&Z Approves Gas Permits in the October 17 Argus Observer and as P&Z Approves Conditional Use Permits for Alta Mesa in the October 17 Independent-Enterprise)

1 thought on “Payette County P&Z Approves Conditional Use Permits for Alta Mesa

  1. Pingback: WIRT Newsletter: Direct Action Manuals, Idaho Gas & Fukushima Plans, Fracking, Shale Oil, Coal, & Tar Sands Resistance | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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