Negotiated Rule Making Begins On Gas Exploration, "Fracking"

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The long and often tedious task of crafting new rules to oversee Idaho gas and oil drilling operations is under way. In a "tail wagging the dog" scenario, the state has found itself in the position of having few if any rules to govern natural gas exploration, in spite of the fact that 11 wells have already been drilled in Payette, four of them successfully.

Bridge Resources has expressed a desire to "mini-frack" (shoot high-pressured liquids and sands) into four of the unsuccessful wells to enhance gas flows. The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved temporary rules in April but immediately charged the Department of Lands with the process of drafting new governance for the industry.

On Thursday, representatives from Bridge, the Department of Lands, the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Idaho Conservation League and a group of concerned citizens huddled to begin the arduous word-by-word, line-by-line process of writing new rules. Thursday was the first of eight rule-making sessions in advance of a presentation to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in mid-August. The process will also include a public hearing in mid-October.

David Hawk, who represents a competitor of Bridge and is also interested in natural gas exploration, questioned the format of the October public hearing in which citizens will be able to testify with little to no rebuttal.

"I'm concerned that some folks will bring up some allegations that are less than scientific," said Hawk. "I'm worried that there will be no chance for rebuttal from the industry."

"Welcome to my world," deadpanned Eric Wilson, mineral program manager for the Department of Lands.

Wilson is overseeing the negotiated rule-making process that will resume on June 9.

You can read all about the unique effort in next week's BW.

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