by Andrew Crisp
The Senate Resources and Environment Committee voted 6-3 late Friday to approve a measure that would shift decisions on gas drilling permits away from local authorities to state oversight.
"I ask that Bill 464 be put in a drawer," said Jerome County
Commissioner resident Lee Halper. "It's my opinion that the Legislature has been lied to by the Idaho Association of Counties."
Over two days, dozens of Idahoans and members of the petroleum industry testified regarding a package of bills that makes the State of Idaho the final arbiter in negotiations with oil and gas companies. As written, Idaho would approach natural gas drilling with the same legal focus as other mineral deposits.
"I'm a landowner, a home owner, a business owner in Payette County and I oppose this bill," said Patti Young. "I consider our life, health and safety to be our biggest priority. This legislation as written does not support that priority."
At certain points, the testimony was personal.
"Your finances are public record; I know that campaign contributions from oil and gas companies were made to all of my representatives from District 9," said Washington County resident Tina Fisher. "You are invited here to the people’s house to represent us. ... If this goes wrong, we may not invite you back."
After more than six hours of combined testimony, the committee passed the bill. It now goes on to the full Senate.