WIRT Newsletter: New Gas Well Comments & WIRT Events This Week

Little Willow Gathering Facility

Alta Mesa’s Little Willow Gathering Facility north of New Plymouth (Idaho Statesman photo/caption)

Stop New Little Willow Gas Well Drilling!

The 15-day public comment period closes on Friday, November 13, for providing your written opposition to yet another permit application for oil and gas well drilling, presumably on Simplot lands (in the Butch Otter family) up Little Willow Road in Payette County, Idaho [1]. Houston-based Alta Mesa has proposed a new well, ML Investments 2-3, about seven miles east of Payette, and has requested that application reviewers and permit issuers at the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) protect its 41 pages of application documents from public disclosure.  A company official contends that much, if not all, of the drilling application information is either confidential for security reasons (as stamped on multiple pages) or meets Freedom of Information Act and Idaho law exemptions prohibiting the disclosure of trade secrets.  Nonetheless, IDL posted the application with redactions on its website on Wednesday, October 28.

Alta Mesa last filed a drilling permit application in November/December 2014, when the Idaho Conservation League and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) separately contested the proposed Smoke Ranch 1-20 well, located only a few hundred feet from the Payette River, and caused application revision and re-submission [2, 3]. According to the IDL website, the company never drilled that well, but has brought five other wells into production during 2015, besides the State 1-17 well that Bridge Resources drilled with ten others in 2009-10, sold to Alta Mesa in 2012, and started up in March 2014 [4].  Alta Mesa is also now extracting gas from the Bridge Resources-drilled ML Investments 1-10 well, claiming that it and the State 1-17 well are wildcat wells drawing from an unproven reservoir.  Nine of the Bridge Resources wells have been shut in pending a pipeline; Bridge intended to frack four of these holes (the Espino 1-2, Korn 1-22, Tracy Trust 3-2, and White 1-10 wells from among the DJS Properties 1-14 and 1-15 and Island Capitol 1-19 wells).

The Texas company has flared several wells since early 2013, and is pulling gas from four of the eight wells that it has drilled since the heavily protested, now shut-in Smoke Ranch 1-21 well (farther from the river than 1-20) in July 2013 [5, 6]. Drilled into the Willow gas field and reservoir, in the hills surrounding Little Willow Creek and Road, the ML Investments 1-11 and 2-10 wells and the Kauffman 1-9 and 1-34 wells are now producing [7].  (The Kauffman couple bid as apparently agreed-upon underdogs in the most recent, May 2015 auction of oil and gas leases on Idaho state lands and minerals [8].)  Alta Mesa has shut in the DJS Properties 2-14 well and not drilled the ML Investments 1-3 well.  Despite numerous errors, missing information, and described harmful practices in seven of eight Alta Mesa drilling applications commented on by WIRT (except the DJS Properties 2-14 well), IDL has not rejected, or required Alta Mesa to revise and re-submit, any of its previous applications [9]. Continue reading