The discussion about oil and gas regulation in Idaho so far has centered on the issue of hydraulic fracturing or fracking and groundwater protection.
But Ben Ysursa, Idaho’s Secretary of State asked hard questions this week about other issues such as who will have control of the issues of the rights of surface owners versus the rights of sub-surface mineral right issues.
Landmen for Bridge Resources and other companies are running around Payette County right now trying to put under lease as many acres as possible of potential drilling sites. Residents who came together in New Plymouth expressed concerns the company representatives weren’t giving them enough time and information to evaluate the leases they were offered.
Company officials told the Legislature that they were negotiating both subsurface leases and surface use agreements. But landowners should be sure the agreements they sign protect their rights, experts said.
Another key issue the oil and gas conservation commission will have to address is unitizing the gas field for development. This process, which delineates how the subsurface resource is divided, is ripe for gerrymandering that could cut mineral right owners out on royalties.
Idaho needs to find people who can analyze the proposal the company or companies make to ensure the most advantageous production and royalty revenues are developed for as many people as possible, experts say.
Susan Steppe hosted a meeting on the natural gas issue at her house in New Plymouth Wednesday night. A dozen folks showed up and expressed their concerns about fracking and the lack of information available for residents about the issue.
Steppe, a stay-at-home mom of a son and two daughters said she is not against drilling but concerned about the threat to the water her children drink. Other people expressed concerns about their property rights.
“I’m just scared and I think a lot of other people would be too if they were told what’s going on,” Steppe said.
She said she is in the process of organizing a more formal group of concerned residents. If people are interested they can e-mail her at: Susan_Steppe@ yahoo.com
“Our goal is just to educate the residents,” she said. “What we would like to see is some sort of regulation whether its at the state level, the county level or the city level.”
Right now the ball is in the state’s court with the oil and gas conservation commission preparing to put in place the first statewide rules.
Justin Hayes, Idaho Conservation League program director attended the meeting at Steppe’s invitation. He said people were just glad to know other people shared their concerns.
“These are normal Idaho families who want to respect private property rights but want to protect their families," Hayes said. "They’re saying slow down, if the gas is there now it’s going to be there in six months.”