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 . 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 . 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!
Most remarkably but predictably, the Wednesday morning frontline demonstration drew scant local media attention and citizen participation but plenty of state repression, via eight agency, city, and state cops attempting to squash the First Amendment rights of only two to three Idaho activists . Even while leading Idaho fractivist Alma Hasse persisted in her sixth day of a jailed hunger strike, after her wrongful arrest while requesting information at a Payette County hearing on the previous Thursday, officials tried to displace and detain her daughter and friends and their protest signs at the next oil and gas public meeting. As described in photo captions and an article and video that garnered nationwide interest, Boise police reinstated these protesters’ rights to peacefully wield signs and quietly videotape and occupy the auction room filled with gas company executives and attorneys.
Where were concerned people across Idaho and the region, coordinating actions and influencing and determining how industry-enforcing bureaucrats manage these shared resources? Allowing the Idaho Department of Lands to both regulate and lease oil and gas development on state holdings seems like a conflict of interest, especially because the politically appointed Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees IDL and industry regulation, enjoys a 1.5 percent severance tax on oil and gas production for its “responsibility.” With 18 drilled but capped wells and pipelines and processing and transportation infrastructure currently under construction or proposed, the first producing well in Idaho in March 2014, on the Teunissen Dairy near New Plymouth, may mark the dawn of a statewide movement against oil and gas industry hegemony.
As five years of frenzied oil and gas rule-making, legislation, exploration, and production, centered primarily in Payette County and the Boise halls of government, continue to degrade relatively pristine and increasingly valuable watersheds and reliant communities, IRAGE and WIRT encourage Idahoans to boycott and divest from oil and gas, engage in grassroots public participation, and generate resistance to the ongoing, boom-and-bust, extreme energy practices of drilling, fracking, acidizing, processing, and transporting hydrocarbons. In the spirit of solidarity with more severely affected Americans, we support displays of collective citizen disapproval of government and corporate use of public lands and waters as sacrifice zones for the toxic aftermath of oil and gas extraction profits. If state residents dismiss opportunities to protect precious, clean air, water, and lands from fossil fuel incursions, they can expect to suffer ruined rights, health, properties, livelihoods, and prolonged climate chaos in the crosshairs of dirty energy corporations.
 Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests (October 7, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)
 Idaho Leases Thousands More Acres for Oil and Gas Development (October 16, 2014 Idaho Department of Lands)
 Idaho Auctions Off More Oil and Gas Leases (October 17, 2014 Idaho Statesman)
 Cassia County Gas and Oil Lease Auctioned to Development Company (October 23, 2014 Twin Falls Times-News)
 Fish and Game Cop Tries to Gag Fracking Activists and is Shut Down by Boise PD (October 17, 2014 EnviroNews)