Senate Takes up Proposal to Strip Local Authority on Gas Drilling

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In the crowded Senate Resources and Environment Committee room Wednesday afternoon, Idaho citizens and representatives of the oil and gas industry testified regarding a number of bills that would remake the way the state interacts with the petroleum industry.

"This bill is really one of about six pieces of the puzzle of updating Idaho's existing statute and code into what's really the best practices of the oil and gas industry," said Suzanne Budge, Idaho Petroleum Council executive director.

Of concern to members of the committee were provisions of the bill that give the state absolute authority over local governments to negotiate with the oil and gas industry.

"This bill seems to swing the pendulum far to the other side," said Rupert Republican Rep. Dean Cameron. "I guess what I'm asking is, why isn't there some middle ground here?"

Those who testified against the bill, like two landowners from Washington County, echoed Sen. Cameron's concerns, related specifically to property rights and accommodations regarding placement and setup of future wells.

However, Kerry Ellen Elliot of the Idaho Association of Counties claimed that her organization supports the measures because of the power they gives local governments, this despite contrary comments from Idaho's county commissioners in a Feb. 8 Boise Weekly story.

"You may think you have control," said Twin Falls Republican Rep. Lee Heider. "You testified that you thought you had control, but the verbage here says you have no control."

The committee will take up consideration of the bill on Friday, March 2, to accommodate continued questions and requests to testify.

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