Oil and Gas Rulemaking Public Meeting on Tuesday, July 22

In April 2014, the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted to enter into negotiated rulemaking, to improve and clarify the existing Rules Pertaining to Conservation of Crude Oil and Natural Gas, IDAPA 20.07.02.  The commission published a notice of intent about this process in the Idaho Administrative Bulletin on June 4, 2014.  The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is holding four negotiated rulemaking public meetings in the Idaho Capitol at 8:30 am MDT on June 6 and 18 and on July 2 and 22 [1].  Purportedly state-initiated, but primarily industry-instigated, changes to the rules governing oil and gas development in Idaho are open to oral and written public comments and eventual hearings on the final draft of the proposed rules.  IDL oil and gas program manager Bobby Johnson has managed these rulemaking sessions that have drawn the attendance of agency staff, industry representatives, and stakeholders from Alta Mesa, the Idaho Association of Counties, Idaho Conservation League, IDL, Idaho Department of Water Resources, and Idaho Petroleum Council, and concerned county commissioners, Gem and Payette county residents and landowners, and Boise citizens.

Much that Idahoans cherish is at stake through this rulemaking and associated legislative approval of revised Idaho oil and gas rules and other related laws.  As Gem County activist Joe Morton asserts, the new IDAPA rules and prerogatives advanced by Governor Otter’s appointed Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are eroding, if not eliminating, Idaho private property rights [2].  The state legislature mandated legal clauses proclaiming that the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission shall have “authority over all persons and property, public and private” concerning oil and gas extraction.  Idaho lawmakers also removed local government control of oil and gas exploitation with passage of House Bill 464 in 2012, which states that “No ordinance, resolution, requirement, or standard of a city, county, or political subdivision, except a state agency with authority, shall actually or operationally prohibit the extraction of oil and gas.”  Besides many other troublesome rule changes favoring industry, state agency and commission members are currently displaying corporatism at its best: Writing new IDAPA rules that could force pool 45 percent of non-participating private property owners into relinquishing their rights to minerals taken from under their lands.  Like landowners who do not own their subsurface minerals and accompanying rights in “split estates,” the state of Idaho would allow extraction of oil and gas regardless of property owners wishes.

Citizen comments and threats of protest have already impacted the processes of this second series of Idaho oil and gas rulemaking led by the Idaho Department of Lands.  As individuals or on behalf of grassroots groups, several people sent email messages to IDL’s Bobby Johnson respectfully requesting a minimum two-week extension of the public comment period on the revised rules, prolonged past its conclusion on the same day as the last rulemaking meeting.  The original deadline, during the July and August time when Idahoans typically enjoy distant summer vacations, discouraged opportunities for citizens to thoughtfully consider and immediately respond with detailed comments to oil and gas rule changes implemented during the last rulemaking session.  Moreover, the Idaho legislature will not take any action on the proposed revised rules until next January, a situation that further emphasizes the arbitrary and capricious nature of the comment period deadline for these new oil and gas rules.

As indicated on the Idaho Department of Lands website housing the revised oil and gas rules, a public hearing is also within the possible scope of negotiated rulemaking.  Like WIRT, please call or email IDL oil and gas program manager Bobby Johnson (208-334-0200, brjohnson@idl.idaho.gov) leaving or sending a message asking him when the Idaho Department of Lands will post the final draft of the proposed negotiated rules for public comment, and if and when IDL plans to schedule a public hearing about these revised rules before the next legislative session.  Also inquire about how the public can obtain explanations of anticipated public benefits derived from the rule changes presently being considered.

The July 22, 2014 session agenda concludes with the remarks “Next Steps: Please submit all comments on the draft negotiated rule to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) by August 1, 2014…Dates for the comment period and public hearing will be identified in Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  IDL’s rulemaking website will also identify this information” [3]  If the responsible agencies do not grant a public hearing and more than a ten-day comment period extension, WIRT and allies are planning “people’s hearings” and protests of oil and gas rule modifications that diminish safe setback distances between public/private structures and oil and gas wells and infrastructure, that undermine citizen and private property rights, and that limit public involvement and oversight of dangerous industry practices, including use of fracking chemicals.  Although very few media and fractivist reports about these meetings have emerged, independent journalists who have been writing about oil and gas issues in Idaho for years will cover the July 22 negotiated rulemaking.

Please plan to attend and participate in the last of four negotiated oil and gas rulemaking sessions at 8:30 am MDT on July 22 in the Lincoln Auditorium at the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho [4].  At these industry-dominated public meetings, Idaho citizens are essentially “at the table” with state regulators and industry representatives, to update rules that govern oil and gas extraction in Idaho.  Strong citizen input is essential to balance public interests and the common good with the mercenary objectives of oil and gas companies and state government.  See the following links to oil and gas rulemaking session agendas, draft revised rules, and citizen comments available on the Idaho Department of Lands website.  Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction and Wild Idaho Rising Tide, with the assistance of Boise attorney Natalie Havlina, will prepare, share, and submit written comments on Idaho oil and gas rules to IDL, while providing more information over the next week to inform and elicit written citizen comments.

[1] Oil and Gas: Rulemaking for IDAPA 20.07.02 Rules Pertaining to Conservation of Crude Oil and Natural Gas (Idaho Department of Lands)

[2] Photos from Jason Casella’s Post in Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction – IRAGE

[3] Idaho Department of Lands – Negotiated Rulemaking IDAPA 20.07.02 Agenda July 22, 2014, 8:30 am MDT (Idaho Department of Lands)

[4] Fracking in Idaho! Negotiated Rule-Making with the Oil and Gas Companies (Ashley Harker facebook event)

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