New Language in Gas Exploration Legislation Would Include More Local Oversight

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Petroleum industry advocates say they'll soon be ready to to present a package of bills regarding oversight of Idaho's natural gas exploration industry, and when they do, they'll be alongside Idaho's county administrators to support the measures.

The Idaho Association of Counties spent weeks working with the Idaho Petroleum Council, an association of oil- and gas-related companies, to craft new oversight guidelines as part of legislation that should come before the Idaho Legislature sometime in February.

"We've been meeting with all of the appropriate state agencies regarding the language," said John Foster, a consultant to IPC, who said that it was still to be determined which Idaho House or Senate committee would see the proposed legislation first.

According to a statement from the IAC and IPC, the proposed measures would include a requirement that the state notify local governments when a company applies for an exploration permit in that county. Local governments will be able to regulate construction and operation of the processing stations, pipelines and other infrastructure required for the exploration and delivery of natural gas, "as long as the county rules do not prevent that infrastructure from being built," according to the statement.

The proposed legislation would also grant local governments "the freedom and flexibility to pass their own industry-specific ordinances as long as those rules do not conflict with state law."

Foster said the bills' sponsors already considered several legislators as "great champions" for the industry, including Republican Rep. Judy Boyle, House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Sen. Monty Pearce, all from District 9, the southwest Idaho region that has seen the greatest interest in natural gas exploration.

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