Gas Well Spacing & Lakeside Logging Comments, Tribal Paddle & Oil Train Protest Reports, & More


Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) offers these updates, condensed and compiled in chronological order from posts shared during summer 2020, on the WIRT facebook page and weekly Climate Justice Forum radio program.  Please learn about and comment against fossil fuels and forest exploitation proposals, advanced by Idaho state and federal government agencies at the behest of profiteering companies marauding private and public resources, and support and partake in grassroots and indigenous demonstrations of resistance to these invasions that risk and degrade human and environmental health and safety.

July 2: Stop Oil Trains Report

WIRT organizers appreciate everyone who publicized and/or participated in the seventh annual, regional, Stop Oil Trains 2020 events on June 25 through July 2, honoring the 47 lives lost and downtowns devastated by oil train derailments, spills, fires, and explosions in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, in Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016, and potentially in all rail corridor, frontline communities threatened by the risks and pollution of crude oil pipelines-on-rails [1, 2].  We are especially grateful for David Perk of 350 Seattle and allied, Northwest activists for an interactive, teleconferenced, train watch training workshop, and for Occupy and WIRT volunteers who hosted an outreach table during Sandpoint Farmers Market, gathered signatures for the Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, and displayed spotlighted, environmental and social justice messages within the “bomb train blast zones” of downtown Spokane and Sandpoint.  As WIRT continues to confront up to 30 weekly, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway and Union Pacific Railroad trains, hauling volatile Bakken shale oil and sinkable Alberta tar sands, and to resist Northwest fossil fuels-by-rail export terminals, refineries, and railroad bridge and track expansions, we will update this report and post more photos of the Stop Oil Trains 2020 week of actions [3].

July 30: CAIA Quarterly Newsletter

Thanks to Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA), for their quarterly, July to September 2020 newsletter featuring updates on CAIA president Shelley Brock’s bid for an Idaho state representative position, CAIA and Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meetings, cancellation of the July 2020 auction of state oil and gas leases, and other fossil fuels and public water and lands issues [4].  Please help stop Treasure Valley hydrocarbon extraction and resource exploitation, by answering three CAIA calls to action prompting citizen resistance to proposed, oil and gas well spacing and drilling and resulting, force-pooled leasing in Fruitland, Idaho.

August 1: Fourth Remember the Water Paddle Report

During the mid-summer heat and cool, full moonlit nights of late July and early August 2020, members of the Kalispel, Colville, and Spokane tribes, the River Warrior Society, and canoe families continued the historic and now annual tradition of the Fourth Remember the Water Paddle.  As supporters and equipment drivers watched and talked at 9 am on Thursday morning, July 30, groups of four to seven paddlers prepared and began their journey in three traditional, big, wooden canoes carved from cedar tree trunks and launched on Lake Pend Oreille, from south City Beach Park in downtown Sandpoint, Idaho.  They navigated under the BNSF Railway and U.S. Highway 95 bridges, onto Pend Oreille River currents over the course of 50-plus miles and three days, and arrived without an annual, cancelled powwow deadline this year, at the Kalispel reservation near Usk, Washington, at 7 pm on Saturday, August 1.  Read the WIRT report and view a video and photos of the event, through the enclosed links [5, 6].  Thanks and congratulations to all who shared this creative, successful Fourth Remember the Water Paddle!

August 4: Phyllis Kardos Primary Election Victory

Cheers for District 1 Pend Oreille County commissioner candidate Phyllis Kardos, who has won the Washington primary election [7]!  With faith in Phyllis’s sensible approaches to community responsibility, positive political changes, and environmental protection within a conservative stronghold, especially amid county decisions concerning the proposed Newport silicon smelter, WIRT activists will continue to support Phyllis’s campaign for election on November 3, through endorsement and outreach.  We encourage the western neighbors of the Idaho Panhandle to vote for Phyllis Kardos!

August 5: Idaho Gas Well Drilling Comments

In early August 2020, in response to a Snake River Oil and Gas application to drill the Barlow 2-14 “hydrocarbon well a mere 20 feet from the Barlow 1-14 [well]” and a public comment period on the proposal, Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability president Shelley Brock, attorney James Piotrowski, and Fruitland residents sent letters of objection to the Idaho Department of Lands, stating legal reasons for denial of the drilling permit [8-10].  They described potential harms to resources and violations of Idaho statutes that state approval of the oil and gas well on the floodplain banks of the Payette River would inflict, such as leaking well components and wasting of the hydrocarbon pool by allowing two wells within the same spacing unit and geologic structure [11].

Comment by August 27: Idaho Gas Well Spacing Units

On Thursday, August 13, the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (IOGCC) and Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) oil and gas director Mick Thomas held two hearings on the first of two or more 2020, Snake River Oil and Gas (SROG) applications for Payette County spacing units (docket number CC-2020-OGR-01-001) in and near Fruitland, Idaho.  This application establishes the first step that, if approved by the state within 30 days (by September 13) and followed by an integration order, would “force pool” unwilling citizens into leasing their privately owned oil and gas resources.  The spacing unit encompasses mineral rights holders around the Fallon 1-10 well directionally drilled in 2018, but not yet producing oil and gas, on the floodplain banks across the Payette River and under the city of Fruitland water intake plant, near U.S. Highway 95.  Prompted by Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA) partners, WIRT wrote and sent comments on behalf of our 3,200-plus activists, members, and friends, in objection to this water-endangering scheme in mid-June 2020 [12].

At the formal, evidentiary hearing on Thursday morning, only agency and expert, not citizen, witnesses testified, and CAIA attorney James Piotrowski and a SROG lawyer represented their clients with conflicting interests in approval by hearing officer Mick Thomas of the current, SROG, spacing application, later integration proposal, and Fallon 1-10 well production.  Through federal lawsuit decisions in 2018 and 2019, CAIA successfully challenged an integration order based on a larger spacing unit around the same well.  The public witness hearing on Thursday evening hosted the testimony of citizens who signed up in advance and commented in person or via the online and phone conference.  About a dozen witnesses spoke and/or read their previous letters posted on the IDL site for the spacing application, and thus powerfully helped the CAIA case, in its likely upcoming, biggest battles against integration [13].

According to an emailed notice sent by Shelley Brock, “CAIA is objecting to this application on behalf of our members who live within that unit, or immediately outside of it, and would be negatively impacted in various ways if and when the Fallon 1-10 well is put into production.  We also object to the siting of this well, as it presents a profound threat to the Fruitland community’s water system.  Our attorney presented arguments against this spacing unit during the initial, evidentiary hearing, and about 14 CAIA members spoke during…public testimony, either in person or via Zoom.  Technical problems that plagued both the Zoom hearings and the livestream feed on the IDL facebook page contributed to delays that caused the hearings to stretch over nearly seven hours.  A huge shout-out to all our members who stood strong until the end and made sure their voices were heard.  And a special thanks to our awesome attorney,…for so capably representing our members and, in essence, all the citizens of Idaho.  Thank you again for all you are doing to protect Idaho’s heritage for those of us living here now and for future generations!”

WIRT climate activists also offer our gratitude to everyone who sent a letter of objection in the spring and/or testified against this SROG spacing application for a smaller, Fallon 1-10 well section, and who commented in opposition to the SROG drilling application for the Barlow 2-14 well [14-16].  We urge and appreciate ongoing resistance to this reckless invasion of Idaho’s economy and environment.  Idahoans around the state cannot allow agencies like IDL to act against the best interests of citizens, by permitting the devastating impacts of oil and gas exploitation on our shared water, natural and agricultural resources, and the health, safety, and prosperity of Idaho families.

Treasure Valley residents are also issuing calls for letters against a SROG application for a second, 640-acre, spacing unit located between the Fallon and Barlow well sites (docket number CC-2020-OGR-01-002).  This additional push toward further integration/force-pooling will likely accommodate drilling and production of the Barlow 2-14 and perhaps another, later well.  For further information, CAIA and WIRT invite and encourage you to access and watch the evidentiary and public testimony sessions of August 13 and 27, IDL hearings that could set precedent for other communities around the state in the crosshairs of extractive industries [17].  View livestreamed videos of these online discussions at the IDL/state land board facebook page and linked through the IOGCC website home and administrative hearings pages and the IDL website events calendar [18].  Read the most recent, CAIA, quarterly newsletter and WIRT comments about the first spacing unit this year, for more suggestions on raising similar objections [4, 12].  Despite mixed messages about public comment deadlines on either August 13 and 14 or the second hearing date of August 27, write, address, and send your email letter, including the docket number, to Kourtney Romine of IDL at kromine@idl.idaho.gov.  Ask that IDL post your letter as part of the public record for this second spacing application.

Comment by August 27: Pend Oreille Lakeside Timber Sales

While Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway expands its fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails bridges and tracks over the outlet end of Lake Pend Oreille, during the next five or more years, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) plans to log 177,852 acres of the north, west, and wilder east sides of the lake [19, 20].  USFS officials say that the proposed, phased project, during the next 15 years starting in 2021, would reduce the risks and dangers of insect, disease, and noxious weed infestations, wildfire, and road sediment, and improve scenery, recreational opportunities, road travel and drainage, aquatic and wildlife habitat, and water quality.  But the clearcut logging and roadbuilding of USFS “commercial vegetation management” and nominally beneficial “restoration” projects only inflict the ecological devastation of more timber sales and roads, not healthier and safer forest and water conditions and resources.  As depicted in plan-excerpted maps, these invasions of vast, steep expanses of lakeside mountains would extend from 9,338 forest acres above Hope, East Hope, and Clark Fork, along 21,520 acres of the west side of the lake, from the Mineral Point to the Cape Horn areas north of Bayview, and as 40 miles and 146,994 acres of adjacent tracts from the Montana border, above the Clark Fork River, through the Green Monarch and Packsaddle mountains, down the eastern lake slopes, and south to Farragut State Park and Hayden Lake [20-23].

The lower Priest Lake area, north of the communities of Priest River, Oldtown, and Newport, faces similar destruction of 152,045 mostly contiguous acres, while huge timber sales around Bonners Ferry, in the Selkirk and Coeur d’Alene mountains, and especially in the Saint Joe River drainage would together level 515,478 acres of forests [20].  WIRT cannot help but wonder if all of these killed trees would fuel increasing numbers of purportedly clean/green energy, “biomass” and “biofuel” incinerators and/or the thousands-of-degrees hot furnaces of the PacWest silicon smelter planned near Newport.

Regional, Big Green groups like Idaho Conservation League (ICL) and The Lands Council (TLC) have been attending meetings of the Panhandle Forest Collaborative for a few years, negotiating USFS-supportive compromises on these projects with the USFS Sandpoint Ranger District [24].  Essentially excluding citizens from meaningful guidance of and resistance to public forest management, collaboratives are just end runs around public input processes that are themselves dog-and-pony shows with predetermined, industry- and government-preferred outcomes.  WIRT cannot understand why green groups would dirty their hands and consciences with collaborative fiascos that devise destruction during the last several decades.  We can only imagine that corporate sympathizers and funders, who play to win, have taken over their organizational boards and finances, while more frugal, grassroots groups struggle to survive and prevail against entirely questionable industry, government, and conservation group motives.

Although none of these collaborative parties have revealed much information about these large, climate-wrecking, watershed-decimating, logging proposals, some forest and wildlife protection advocates, like Alliance for the Wild Rockies and others, have written extensive comments and publicly denounced these massive, ecosystem-damaging timber grabs.  How can any of these destructive projects progress, before the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (INPF) opens its draft, five-year, “integrated vegetation and fuels” action plan to public scoping input?  Nonetheless, on July 13, the Forest Service released its environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact and opened its draft decision to 45 days of objections, for the 57,193-acre, Buckskin Saddle, “integrated restoration,” logging and roadbuilding project, planned to commence in the Green Monarch and Packsaddle mountains in 2021 and 2022 [20, 21, 25].

The federal agency contends that only those people “‘who previously submitted comments during the scoping and comment period on the proposed action are eligible to file an objection,’” and that “objections must pertain to previously submitted, ‘timely, specific, written comments regarding the proposed project’” [25].  When government systems do not represent the best interests of local communities, resist them in any way that you can.  Please see the enclosed, information links to USFS deforestation proposals, local articles, and the latest collaborative meeting minutes [19-25].  Review Buckskin Saddle project descriptions and comments and send your objections to Douglas Nishek of INPF, at dnishek@fs.fed.us and/or 1602 Ontario Street, Sandpoint, ID 83864, by Thursday, August 27 [21].  WIRT is always grateful for every endeavor that seeks to halt this theft of public assets with higher values than liquidation for private profits.

September 11-13: Postponed Sixth Panhandle Paddle

As WIRT and #No2ndBridge activists suffer the frontline anguish of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails expansion, abandoned by Big Green groups and local government giving BNSF a free pass, and by invited attorneys and protesters declining participation, we continue to search for a #No2ndBridge lawyer and to document BNSF’s every illegal maneuver.  Due to other currently intensive resistance, we are postponing by two weeks the annual Panhandle Paddle, usually held on the weekend before or, more recently, after Labor Day.  Please join us on Friday through Sunday, September 11 to 13, in solidarity with fossil fuels frontlines and climate emergencies around the Earth enduring and protesting ongoing, industry infrastructure and transportation onslaughts undeterred or abetted by the pervasive, health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This annual convergence of Northwest activists will again feature a community forum on fossil fuel trains, bridges, and terminals on Friday evening, September 11, direct action workshops with West Coast trainers on Saturday, September 12, and a flotilla of canoes, kayaks, and non-motorized watercraft on Lake Pend Oreille, around present and proposed, railroad bridge sites on Sunday, September 13.  As we finalize event arrangements at WIRT meetings during the next few weeks, we encourage your involvement in planning and participating, and will provide further event information soon.

[1] Stop Oil Trains 2020, June 22, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[2] Stop Oil Trains 2020, June 22, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[3] Stop Oil Trains 2020 6-27 to 7-2-20, July 4, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[4] More Drilling Proposed in Idaho, July 30, 2020 Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability

[5] Fourth Remember the Water Paddle 7-30 to 8-1-20, August 9, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[6] Fourth Remember the Water Paddle finish video, August 1, 2020 Betty Jo

[7] Phyllis Kardos, Pend Oreille County Commissioner, District 1

[8] Oil Company, Organization Sound Off over Proposed Well, August 9, 2020 Argus Observer

[9] 08/05/2020 — Shelley Brock (comments on Barlow 2-14 well application), August 5, 2020 Idaho Department of Lands/Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

[10] 08/05/2020 — James Piotrowski on behalf of CAIA (comments on Barlow 2-14 well application), August 5, 2020 Idaho Department of Lands/Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

[11] Idaho Statutes Title 47 Chapter 3 Section 47-317, Idaho Legislature

[12] WIRT Comments on Spacing Application CC-2020-OGR-01-001, June 11, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[13] Administrative Hearings, Idaho Department of Lands/Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

[14] UI Online Classes Petition, Gas Well Comments, Anti-Smelter Candidate, Panhandle Paddle, and More, August 2, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[15] Application for Permit to Drill (Barlow #2-14) Under Review, Idaho Department of Lands/Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

[16] Barlow 2-14 Well Application, Idaho Department of Lands/Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

[17] Testimony Wanted in Oil and Gas Well Hearing, August 13, 2020 Argus Observer

[18] Idaho Department of Lands – Idaho Land Board videos

[19] Euthanasia for the Forest, April 16, 2020 Sandpoint Reader

[20] North Idaho Logging for Newport Smelter? May 25, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[21] Buckskin Saddle Integrated Restoration Project, U.S. Forest Service

[22] Honey Badger Project, U.S. Forest Service

[23] Honey Badger Project, U.S. Forest Service

[24] Panhandle Forest Collaborative Meeting Record, May 15, 2019, at the Sandpoint Library

[25] USFS Releases Buckskin Saddle Project Decision, July 23, 2020 Sandpoint Reader

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