Oil and Gas Commission Approves Temporary Fracking Rules

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Idaho's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held its second meeting in two months this morning. It was also the second meeting in 18 years. An ever-increasing interest in natural gas exploration in Idaho was the impetus for the standing-room-only session.

The commission, comprised of Idaho's five statewide elected officers, focused on the operations of Bridge Resources, which has been drilling for natural gas in Payette County. Bridge has thus far drilled 11 wells in the New Plymouth area; four have been dry, three have been successful, and Bridge has plans for the remaining three.

Bridge wants to conduct what it calls "mini-fracking," a process of shooting high-pressured liquids and sand down its wells to enhance gas flows. But Idaho has had little to no rules on well treatments, let alone hydraulic fracturing. That is, until this morning.

The commission voted unanimously to adopt temporary rules for the processes, using Wyoming's regulations as a base model. The Idaho Department of Lands is expected to refine the rules in the coming months.

"We acknowledge that these rules need updating," said Eric Wilson, Minerals Program manager for the Department of Lands. "This summer, we'll be going through quite a bit of new rule-making and negotiating."

Wilson told Citydesk that his agency will be working directly with and getting comments from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality, and local entities in New Plymouth and Payette County.

Meanwhile, Bridge is planning a busy summer in the wake of this morning's vote. In addition to its plans for mini-fracking four wells, it hopes to drill as many as 60 new wells in Idaho as the company gets closer to putting its gas discoveries into production.

The commission also approved Bridge's request to drill more in less space. Idaho code had restricted one drill per 640 acres, but by unanimous vote, the commission agreed to allow one drill per 160 acres, or approximately one drill for ever four square miles.

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