WIRT Newsletter: September Idaho Gasland News


GASLAND 2 IDAHO ROAD SHOW: BOISE & ONTARIO

Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allies are hosting the Gasland 2 Idaho Road Show, providing community screenings in eight cities across Idaho and plenty of updates about the current oil and gas situation in Idaho [1, 2]. Gasland Part II, the 2013 sequel to independent filmmaker Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated, movement-building documentary Gasland, reveals the implications for environmental, climate, and human health and American democracy and rights of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil and one of the most important environmental issues currently troubling our nation.

As residents of Payette and surrounding counties and southeastern Idaho face impending fracking, concerned, knowledgeable Idaho activists staging these free, public events will discuss with audience members local initiatives against oil and gas leasing, drilling, processing, and transporting in Idaho. This tour encourages citizen comments on recently revised state oil and gas rules before and/or at a Wednesday, September 24 hearing, as well as participation in grassroots protests during the Global Frackdown on the Capitol steps in Boise on Saturday, October 11, and at statewide Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) offices on Wednesday, October 15, opposing another state lands and minerals lease auction.

Please attend one of these movie showings and conversations on Sunday, September 21, in Boise and/or on Monday, September 22, in Ontario, Oregon. As we mobilize Idaho communities against corporate/government dirty energy inroads and demand protection from the impacts of oil and gas development, please consider generously supporting the Gasland 2 Idaho Road Show, online through the WIRT website “Donate to WIRT” button or at the address on the WIRT facebook and website pages [3].  Thanks to Arlene, Claire, Ellen, Jane, Judith, Pat, and Rob, we have raised $110 and donated dinner and lodging toward our $400 goal of offsetting film and travel costs, a small amount compared to the thousands of volunteer hours and dollars spent on a dozen regional campaign trips over the last year.  Please also help us promote this crucial road show and statewide fracking resistance by sharing the email, website, and facebook event announcements, printing and widely posting the event flyer, and participating in one of these community screenings and talks [4].  Thanks!

[1] Gasland 2 Idaho Road Show (Wild Idaho Rising Tide and Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction) (facebook event)

[2] Learn about the Dangers of Fracking in the Film ‘Gasland Part II’ Monday (September 17, 2014 Argus Observer)

[3] Support WIRT (Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[4] Gasland 2 Idaho Road Show Flyer (Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

OIL & GAS RULES COMMENTS

Please participate in the September 3 through 24 public comment period on the Idaho Rules Pertaining to Conservation of Crude Oil and Natural Gas (IDAPA 20.07.02), recently revised during four June and July negotiated rulemaking sessions. At 5 pm MDT on Wednesday, September 24, the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing on these proposed rules at the IDL office, 300 North Sixth Street, Suite 103, in Boise [5].  Although WIRT intends to develop talking points to prompt your comments, limited electricity and internet access for writing during the statewide Gasland 2 Idaho Road Show may delay or impede this project.  See the dozens of comments posted on the Idaho Department of Lands website, previously submitted IRAGE and WIRT letters, and the following editorial for ideas for your comments.  Please also speak out at the hearing and possible protest on September 24, and send your thoughts to the Idaho Department of Lands at rulemaking@idl.idaho.gov or P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0050 [6-7].

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

[6] Comments on Proposed Negotiated Idaho Oil and Gas Rules (August 1, 2014 Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction and Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[7] Our View: Don’t Skimp on Gas Oversight (September 3, 2014 Twin Falls Times-News Editorial Board)

“No fracking in Idaho [good luck with that!] means that dangerous, secret chemicals won’t be shot into the ground and potentially the state’s groundwater. But new industrial sites mean more chemicals to keep the machines working.  Gas drilling means potential widespread environmental contamination and even fires and explosions.”

STATE LEASE AUCTION

The Idaho Board of Land Commissioners received applications for state lands and subsurface minerals potentially leased for oil and gas exploitation at the next auction on October 15, where IRAGE and WIRT plan to display public objection [8]. With these proposals, tracts in Cassia County would join the thousands of acres already leased by Alta Mesa and other gas drillers in Canyon, Gem, Owhyee, Payette, and Washington counties [9].  Possibly affected citizens in the Magic Valley and all of these places are raising concerns about explosive chemicals migrating from faulty conventional, fracked, or acidized wells into drinking water and about earthquakes from gas reservoir fracturing and waste injection wells.  The Idaho Department of Lands accepted written comments and held a public, evening hearing on Wednesday, September 10, about these lands and minerals proposed for auction.  We nonetheless encourage overdue comments to IDL at publichearingcomments@idl.idaho.gov or P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0050.

[8] Public Comment Period for Oil and Gas Lease (September 3, 2014 Emmett Messenger-Index)

[9] Cassia County Land for Lease in State Oil and Gas Auction (August 29, 2014 Twin Falls Times-News)

BOMB TRAIN RAIL SPUR & MINI-REFINERY

At a public hearing held by the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) on Thursday evening, September 11, at the Payette County Courthouse in Payette, commissioners rubberstamped an Alta Mesa application for a conditional use permit (CUP) to build and operate a New Plymouth processing plant and loading facility for liquefied natural gas “bomb trains” a little over one mile from New Plymouth High School [10]. The Houston, Texas company currently drilling another four wells in Payette County ground-zero covered all of its legal bases and used every loophole in county ordinances by submitting two other applications, a rezoning request to convert prime, irrigated, agricultural land to industrial uses, and an attempt to amend the Payette County comprehensive plan [11, 12].  On the previous Tuesday, September 9, P&Z held a noontime, no-host luncheon, to discuss these applications at Jimbo’s in Payette, and conducted a viewing of the site, both open to the public.  IRAGE activists warned that if the commissioners approved any of these applications, they would allow the “hydrocarbon transportation and ancillary processing” industrial facility to proceed, imposing bomb trains rumbling through communities on nearby city residents and other towns down the rail line.  Although P&Z displayed ignorance of potential impacts by rolling out the CUP red carpet, Alta Mesa scrambling local zoning regulations and comprehensive plans perhaps made P&Z “authorities” uneasy: They tabled the other two applications.  Whether the new rail spur and compression station – and associated natural gas exploitation reliant on this fossil fuel infrastructure – are “done deals” remains to be seen.

While a dehydration/compression/refrigeration plant on Highway 30, close to the Langley Gulch gas-fired power station, nears completion, the proposed site for the mini-refinery and rail spur to load bomb trains would occupy property owned by Dick Fisher and located at 4290 East Idaho Street, in the immediate vicinity of the Applegate-Kennedy Cemetery, where Idaho Street turns into Blaine Street, just outside the city limits of New Plymouth. These toxic, potentially tragic facilities would fill rail cars known to explode with highly volatile condensate/natural gas liquids (NGLs).  What could go wrong?  Neighbors, residents along this rail line, and people who choose to live in the country would suffer constant air, noise, and visual pollution, increased traffic, compromised health of self, family, and friends, and reduced home, business, and land property values, not to mention the possibility of personal and property incineration within a half-mile of the train tracks.  Not only are the public safety ramifications enormous, citizens would relinquish land for growing food as well as property values along rail lines, in exchange for out-of-state-and-country companies transporting, exporting, and combusting Idaho gas resources.  Many of the specifics of Alta Mesa’s plans, beyond filed drawings, pictures, and verbal assurances, are missing or postponed.

IRAGE and WIRT invite you to look over Alta Mesa’s applications and offer written comments voicing your disapproval, opinions, and concerns about this development, via email to Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission officials. Contact IRAGE comrades Alma Hasse at 208-695-1556 or idahocare@yahoo.com or Tina Fisher at 208-230-2402 or tina@sheepdogammo.com, with your questions.  Send your letter to Patti Nitz, Planning and Zoning Administrator for Payette County, who suspiciously discussed Alma’s public records request with an industry attorney, through this form.

[10] New Plymouth Fuel Shipping Facility Approved (September 17, 2014 Independent-Enterprise)

[11] Alta Mesa Applications (Alma Hasse Dropbox)

[12] Hydrocarbon Transportation and Ancillary Processing (Protect Gem County)

GEM COUNTY ORDINANCE

Coincidentally (or not!) on the same September 11 evening, the Gem County Oil and Gas Ordinance Committee, developing local oil and gas rules, held an earlier scheduled special public workshop at the Gem County Courthouse in Emmett [13]. Citizens of Gem and Payette counties, typically united against oil and gas invasions, could not attend both meetings.  Those who did participate discussed and provided comments about the oil and gas ordinance, Idaho administrative code, Gem County citizen draft language for the ordinance, and other counties’ similar endeavors.  County residents concerned about gas production operations’ effects on ground and surface water posed questions to the meeting’s guest speaker, Michael Lewis, director of the U.S. Geological Survey Idaho Water Science Center in Boise [14].  The session concluded with suggested scheduling, topics, and inquiries for speakers at successive workshops.

[13] Special County Workshop (Protect Gem County)

[14] Lewis Named Director of USGS Idaho Water Science Center (April 16, 2012 U.S. Geological Survey)

BLM LANDS IN DRILLING POOL

In early September, good news emerged from southwestern Idaho gasland, thanks to the prudence of the nascent Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and thorough federal review processes [15, 16]. The commission rejected Alta Mesa’s request to exclude interspersed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and potential royalties to the state with their drilling, from among otherwise leased private lands in sections within a supposedly profitable natural gas field in southwestern Idaho.  This decision will likely stall Alta Mesa’s reckless lease-and-drill pace on private properties intermixed with these federal lands.  Although some gas development opponents assert that federal administrators violate people’s rights and trample public lands more than the state, and that constitutionally permitted authority over federal lands is constrained to certain capacities that will not obstruct gas development, most fractivists see this interim measure as a hopeful delay in the far-from-finished processes that destroy beautiful Idaho.

[15] Idaho Rejects Oil Company Request to Exclude Feds (September 4, 2014 Idaho Statesman)

[16] Application to Omit Lands that are Owned by the Federal Government 11-20-13 (November 20, 2013 Perkins and Trotter)

IDAHO AG-GAG LAWSUIT

Congratulations to Alma Hasse, Blair Koch, Will Potter, Sandpoint Vegetarians, and other plaintiffs challenging the illegal restrictions on whistleblowing free speech advanced by Idaho’s controversial “ag-gag” law, which could constrain public scrutiny of oil and gas activities on Idaho agricultural lands. On September 4, Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Boise allowed their lawsuit to proceed against the state of Idaho, in the court case brought forward by a broad-based, public-interest coalition of non-profits and journalists, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [17, 18].  The bill, Idaho Code 18-7042, signed into immediate effect in February 2014 by Idaho Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter, would criminalize free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.  Judge Winmill’s ruling refused to grant the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed in March 2014 in U.S. District Court in Idaho.  Inept state lawmakers and administrators striving to silence investigative activism and journalism and free speech are costing American and Idaho taxpayers millions of hard-earned dollars to defend this (and other!) indefensible laws that they have enacted with knowledge that the legislation cannot withstand legal challenges.

[17] Court Rules in Favor of Public Interest Coalition, Denies Idaho’s Motion to Dismiss Ag Gag Lawsuit (September 4, 2014 Animal Legal Defense Fund)

[18] Case 1:14-cv-00104-BLW Document 68 Memorandum Decision and Order (September 4, 2014 U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho)

SOUTHERN IDAHO NATURAL GAS PRICES

Apparently, the expansive “homegrown” energy that Governor Otter and the Idaho Legislature promised citizens and the natural gas price drop that industry ensured for Idaho consumers, as it brought natural gas wells online in southwestern Idaho, have not materialized. As working interest owners in the only active New Plymouth well, which is not producing as much gas as anticipated, Intermountain Gas representatives may have factored their losses into their request for natural gas rate increases in southern Idaho [19].  How can industry and government, who have cheated and lied to citizens, expect them to pay more for utilities affected by the bad decisions of corporations who only care about their bottom lines similarly bailed-out by Americans.  The free-market capitalism lauded by oil and gas development proponents would never condone such taxpayer handouts.

[19] Intermountain Gas Asks to Raise Prices to Meet Costs (September 5, 2014 Idaho Statesman)

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SUFFER

The rural people and local governments of Payette County, the first oil and gas sacrifice zone in Idaho, no thanks to local politicians’ blessings, can expect industry and higher government to ruin them. Although drillers say that they will not frack, they guaranteed that the Statehouse would allow this devastating practice.  Who is so recklessly willing to bet everything they value – health, safety, property values, and quality of life – on the word of such mercenaries?  The ultimate financial losers to an American fracking boom that may soon go bust are homeowners and local governments, as property values and property tax receipts near fracking operations can drop by 70 percent [20-22].  According to Doug Shields, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania instigator of the first U.S. fracking ban:

The shale gas market is an economic boon for the 30-odd states that permit fracking. The severance tax that states impose on the process adds up.  In 2010, it generated more than $11 billion.  The flow of that revenue goes straight into state and federal piggy banks, as does increased corporate income tax revenue from energy companies profiting from fracking.

Localities, however, enjoy no such benefits. Instead, they get stuck with all the fracking problems: noise from blasting, storage of toxic chemicals, degraded water sources, and heavy truck traffic, as well as the rising costs of cleaning up the detritus that fracking leaves behind.  North Dakota counties affected by hydraulic fracturing have reported to the state Department of Mineral Resources’ Oil and Gas Division that traffic, air pollution, jobsite and highway accidents, sexual assaults, bar fights, prostitution, and drunk driving have all increased.

In addition, fracking, in many cases, negatively impacts property values, which in turn depresses property tax revenue. For property owners who own the rights to the oil and gas on their lands, the effects of drilling can be offset by royalty payments.  But localities have no revenue offset if properties lose value.

[20] Fracking’s Financial Losers: Local Governments (September 2014 Governing)

[21] Fracking Losers: Local Government (September 14, 2014 No Fracking Way)

[22] The End of Fracking Is Closer Than You Think (September 8, 2014 Vice)

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One thought on “WIRT Newsletter: September Idaho Gasland News

  1. Pingback: Global Frackdown Idaho | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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