BLM Approving Gas Well Permits At Record Pace; Inspection of Wells? Not So Much



In the latest issue of Boise Weekly, we chronicle how Idaho is chugging along in its new era of gas exploration (BW, News, "Drilling into Idaho's Other Common Core," July 23, 2014).

"We were out here when there was no ground disturbed, there was no equipment around and we were told this is what's going to happen and this is how it's going to happen. At that time we didn't have a clue," said Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, surveying the scene of Alta Mesa's latest exploration efforts in and around Payette County.

Now, there's growing interest to explore and drill on Idaho's public lands. And while the Bureau of Land Management says it has dramatically improved is permit process (right now there are nearly 7,000 national permits that have been approved but are sitting unused), it's doing a poorer job of inspecting oil and gas wells.

"While permitting efforts have improved, critical inspections are lagging, and we must do better," said BLM Director Neil Kornze at the recently wrapped Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute in Vail, Colo. "Irregular and declining budgets have hindered our ability to move out agggressively in this area."

Kornze said he has a proposal to ramp up funding for more inspections through a fee system, which could add more than 60 new inspectors nationwide.

The BLM is responsible for inspection and enforcement on a record 100,000 wells nationwide, with tens of thousands of new wells coming on line in recent years.

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