Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14


Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14 (October 15, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, beginning at 8:30 am MDT, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allies converged and protested for a second time another auction of oil and gas leases of state lands and sub-surface mineral rights conducted by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) for the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners [1]. Held in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Trophy Conference Room in Boise, Idaho, the public meeting offered 11 tracts totaling 5,250 acres in Cassia, Gem, and Owyhee Counties, including 600 acres in Cassia County and 160 acres in Gem County of state lands and 4,479 acres in Owyhee County of split estates with private landowners and state mineral holders.

Although citizens at the auction observed four bidders, only the drilling companies Alta Mesa Idaho of Houston, Texas, and Trendwell West of Rockford, Michigan, paid an average of $46 per acre on purportedly competitive, oral bids for subsequent ten-year leases [2, 3]. Increasing the current tally to nearly 98,000 leased state acres (besides thousands of leased private acres in six southwestern counties), IDL raised $263,000 from the auction of state public trust and endowment trust lands and minerals for oil and gas exploitation, “benefitting” the general fund, state wildlife and transportation departments, and specific educational and beneficiary institutions.  The state will receive a 12.5 percent royalty on any resulting oil and gas extracted from producing wells impacting lands, resources, and waterways at bargain prices.

At the successful, three-woman Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protest in Boise, which delayed the auction for a half-hour, the Idaho Department of Lands leased 160 acres of state lands in Gem County for only one dollar per acre. The first ever Cassia County acres went for only $10 per acre, but the other nine parcels in Owyhee County elicited $40 to $55 per acre, with one at $105 [4].  These discrepancies infer (at least to WIRT) that oil and gas industry representatives are leery to invest in Gem County drilling, due to the County Commissioners’ recent decision to establish a committee guiding and (hopefully soon) implementing independent, legally defensible, baseline, water quality sampling and testing of water bodies and wells prior to potentially harmful oil and gas activities.  Congratulations, Gem County activists! Continue reading